Alzheimer's is a disease which causes changes in the brain. It is a slow disease which starts off causing mild memory problems and ends up causing serious mental damage. Alzheimer's affects a person's ability to think, remember, and talk. It is not clear what causes Alzheimer's and there is no known cure. Some people may have the disease for five years, while others may have the disease for as many as 20 years. About four million Americans have Alzheimer's disease.
Most people with Alzheimer's disease are over 65 years old. The chance of getting Alzheimer's disease goes up as a person gets older. Almost half of people over age 85 have Alzheimer's disease. The disease seems to run in families.
The causes of Alzheimer's disease are unknown. Researchers are working around the country to find out what causes Alzheimer's and how to prevent it. They also are testing new medications to help people with Alzheimer's live better lives.
The first signs of Alzheimer's may be memory problems. A person forgets what they just did or the names of people and places they know well. People with early Alzheimer's disease may have trouble doing simple math problems. As the disease gets worse, people may forget how to do simple things like brushing their teeth or combing their hair. They may not be able to think clearly and have trouble talking, understanding, reading, and writing. Some people become nervous or aggressive, or may even wander away from home. Some people with Alzheimer's need full time care. People with several of these signs should see a doctor for a complete exam.
For people in the early and middle stages of the disease, there are medications that can help with memory loss and language problems, sleeplessness, anxiety, depression, and wandering. These medications do not stop Alzheimer's, but they can make people feel better. People with Alzheimer's should go to the doctor on a regular basis for check-ups.
Taking care of a person with Alzheimer's disease can be very hard. It can affect your family life, your job, and your physical and mental health. They have chapters across the country that do educational programs and support groups for caregivers and family members of people with Alzheimer's disease.