It is estimated that more than 4 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, a mental deterioration that leads to severe memory loss, confused thinking and personality changes.
The condition is progressive and eventually fatal, although people with Alzheimer’s can live 10 years or more after symptoms first appear.
The exact cause of the disease is still unknown. It’s most likely to appear in people over 65 and seems to run in families. A genetic link has also been found in some cases of early-onset Alzheimer’s — a rare form that usually strikes people in their late 40s or in their 50s.
Although no current treatment cures the disease, several new drugs that may slow its progress are being tested.
Alzheimer’s Disease: When to Get the Doctor Involved
Since victims of Alzheimer’s disease may not be aware of their condition, it is often up to others to help.
When to Call the Doctor
- If someone shows consistent symptoms of the disease, don’t hesitate to call the doctor yourself. Sometimes it’s hard for people to recognize and acknowledge their own symptoms.
- If someone is in the later stages of Alzheimer’s, call at the first sign of an infection or other illness.
- If you notice that the victim may endanger himself or herself, or could endanger others, notify the doctor.
- If you take care of a person with Alzheimer’s and feel that you are approaching a breaking point, make the call.
Alzheimer’s Disease: Where to Turn for More Help
Dealing with someone who has Alzheimer’s disease is a stressful and exasperating experience. Fortunately, there are resources for learning about the disease and how to help manage it:
- Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral Center (ADEAR)– This information line provides specialists who answer questions and offer information and referrals to other organizations. Call 1-800-438-4380, Monday through Friday, between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET.
- Alzheimer’s Association — This 24-hour information line has more than 200 chapters nationwide. They provide literature, referrals and information on support groups. Reach them by calling 1-800-272-3900.
- “Alzheimer’s: A Caregiver’s Guide and Sourcebook” –This book, by Howard Gruetzner, is a comprehensive resource for anyone coping with this disease. The publisher is John Wiley & Sons.