Don’t Forget Alzheimer’s Patients

Researchers correctly classify patients with Alzheimer’s Disease, independent of clinical diagnosis with better than 90 percent accuracy.

Alzheimer’s Awareness Month

Johnnie’s eyes would brighten as she raised up in her chair. Solidly fixed on my wife, Johnnie excitedly exclaimed, “I remember you…” To which my wife replied as if there were signs of progress, “That’s wonderful,” before being inter­rupted by Johnnie’s continua­tion, “…We were in high school together.” Johnnie was more than 40 years older than my wife. After an awkward pause, my wife responded, “It’s good to see you again too.”

Landis: I had the delicate task of telling a seasoned public speaker that his time had come to an end. Tactfully, I reminded Landis of his accomplish­ments and praised him for his outstanding service. He thanked me and tearfully acknowledged his growing confusion before an audience. To my question of what should be done, Landis stated one conclusion—reliquish his position. Saving him further embarrassment, he asked me to tell the other speakers. Days after I complied, Landis angrily protested to them that he didn’t understand why I stripped him of his responsibility.

Vincent: At a good price, I purchased a sturdy computer desk from an auction. It weighs well over 200 pounds so the question came up as the gavel went down, “How do I get it home and up stairs.” Scanning my phonebook for someone available on a weekday, Vincent’s name stood out.

A “retired” builder by trade, in his mid 70s, Vincent could crush my palm with a handshake if he didn’t exercise restraint. He leaped at the opportunity to assist, easily supporting the bulk of the weight on the low end of the steps. Vincent was stronger than men half his age. In time, it confounded me to witness his inability to keep a confidence, then adamantly deny revealing it. Within six years Vincent was drinking juice through a Sippy Straw in a con­va­les­cent hospital, unable to tell is powerful left hand from his right.

Shirley: A feisty and devoted Trinidadian wife volunteered four decades of her life helping families to turn their lives around for the better. And she was very good at it. During her final months, she marched around her apartment with Bible in one hand and purse in the other. She had no idea whether she was coming or going to visit someone in need.

Though each of these friends and work­mates is now gone, the names have been changed for family privacy. Neverthe­less, they are not forgotten, neither is the ailment to which they succumbed—Alzheimer’s Disease. Yes, more than a fashionable excuse for not remembering, Alzheimer’s disease can take lives as early signs of the disease become progressively worse.

People assume that it is a normal part of aging. But it is not. According to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a progres­sive, degenerative disorder that attacks the brain's nerve cells, or neurons, resulting in loss of memory, thinking and language skills, and behavioral changes. Short-term memory fails when AD first destroys nerve cells in the hippo­campus. Language skills and judgment decline when neurons die in the cerebral cortex.

Dilemma of Predicted Outcomes

In 2010, Geert De Meyer, PhD, et al. published findings (Arch Neurol. 2010;67(8):949-956. doi:10.1001/archneurol. 2010.179) that demonstrate effectiveness of a spinal fluid test to predict AD with better than 90 percent accuracy. Would you want to know that your brain function will deteriorate? What effect would this have insurance costs?

Test Subject Group Ages 70-79 Study Population Identified AD Signature
Alzheimer's Disease Patients 102 90 %
Mild Cognitive Impairment 200 72 %
Cognitively Normal Participants 114 36 %

Predicting serious, long-term illness is like wielding a two-edge sword with tremen­dous emotional, social and financial conse­quences. The cost of long-term care for AD patients has been addressed in The Alzheimer’s Association report entitled Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures. Therein, the only practical ways to provide anything above sub-standard care is to purchase insurance in advance of the diagnosis or save up adequate personal finances.

Video: Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures 2018 annual report

10 Early Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease

Early and accurate diagnosis could save up to $7.9 trillion in medical and care costs. What are the early symptoms? The following abbreviated list, provided by Alzheimer’s Association, is for informa­tion only and not a substitute for a consulta­tion with a qualified medical professional.

  1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life.
  2. Challenges in planning or solving problems.
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure.
  4. Confusion with time or place.
  5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships.
  6. New problems with words in speaking or writing.
  7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps.
  8. Decreased or poor judgment.
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities.
  10. Changes in mood and personality.

“One of the challenges of Alzheimer’s is that it will cause a person to lose the ability to recognize their loved ones, including their spouse,” says Peter Reed, MD, senior director of programs for the Alzheimer Association. Negatively affecting emotions, AD sufferers may have feelings of anger, anxiety, depression, fear, and loneliness. Positive emotional effects can include serenity and joyfulness with capability of “living in the moment.”

Treatments for Alzheimer’s

Obviously, we all occasionally forget things. So don’t panic over every ‘brain fart.’ However, for persistent and progressive symptoms, have an evaluation performed by a licensed healthcare provider to address any concerns.

According to The Concise New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, brain fart (perhaps jocularly derived from “brainstorm”) is a slang expression which can refer to one of several experiences:

  • Tip of the tongue phenomenon—temporary inability to recall a name or word
  • A brief episode of absent-mindedness or inattention
  • Human error or a mistake resulting from absent-mindedness or impulsivity

Senile Dementia of Alzheimer’s Type (SDAT) is a previously used medical diagnosis describ­ing symptoms of dementia likely caused by AD. The word senile here references the age of onset, which was consi­dered senility if developed after age 65. The descrip­tor “late-onset” (vs. early-onset) is now more commonly used when identifying the age of dementia onset.

Currently there is no cure for AD but various drug therapies control symptoms. These may include donepezil hydro­chloride (ARICEPT), galantamine hydro­bromide (Razadyne), and/or meman­tine hydro­chloride. The one prescrip­tion that cannot be filled at the pharmacy is compassionate care.

If you are a medical professional who treats AD patients, don’t forget to obtain the anatomy poster entitled Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease.

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