Having Alzheimer’s disease or having a loved one who has Alzheimer’s can be one of the most difficult situations in life.
Today, there are 47.5 million people living with dementia in the world, and of these, between 60% and 70% have Alzheimer’s disease, according to figures from the World Health Organization.
It is a disease that is difficult to accept, assimilate and overcome. People affected by Alzheimer’s suffer from progressive deterioration, which includes abrupt changes in behavior and increasing dependence.
The situation is very painful for those who suffer from this dementia, as we go through times of growing confusion and deep depression.
For loved ones, the disease can be devastating, especially because of the helplessness that we feel and the fatigue that we experience, as a result of the time we devote and the energy we spend.
What is Alzheimer’s disease?
Officially, Alzheimer’s has no cure today. Usually, the diagnosis is given about 5 or 6 years after the first symptoms of the disease.
It is from this point that one can expect a great deterioration, which will then lead to death.
People with Alzheimer’s usually have a life expectancy of between 7 and 20 years after being diagnosed.
The disease usually passes through three stages: the first is characterized by short-term memory problems, disorientation, reduced motor skills and some changes in behavior, which may go unnoticed.
In the second phase, the deterioration of memory and behavior becomes more and more evident. The person may no longer recognize people in their family and have aggressive reactions to people, without apparent cause.
In the last phase, the person is less and less “functional”. She can forget how to use language, and come to total dependence in everyday life (like eating or going to the bathroom)
The family of an Alzheimer’s patient faces very complex times and extremely difficult decisions.
The first difficulty lies in the diagnosis itself, because it is a disease that manifests itself differently in each person. While some have typical symptoms, others do not.
Alzheimer’s is easily confused with deep depression, with anxiety disorders and with the changes characteristic of old age.
In fact, the 100% confirmed diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is not made until after death, thanks to observation of the brain during the autopsy. As long as the patient is still alive, one can only make a probability diagnosis.
Thus, the family must adapt its living conditions to the patient’s situation.
At some point, she has to decide whether to continue care at home or whether to place the patient in a specialized center. This implies, without a doubt, a very strong confrontation with emotions and feelings.
There is Hope
It is possible to approach Alzheimer’s disease in such a way that loved ones are not too affected and the patient maintains a certain quality of life.
At the moment, the disease cannot be cured, but it can be slowed down, that is, its progression less slow.
Stress is known to increase the severity of Alzheimer’s symptoms.
That’s why it’s important to take action to reduce anxiety, whatever form it may take.
It is good to have rigid schedules for the patient and to make the home a safe space.
Fixed programs help to reduce stress and allow the patient to reduce his disorientation. The programs simplify daily life, both for the patient and his family.
Whenever possible, it is a good idea to hire an outside person to take care of the patient’s care.
This applies especially to the bathroom, dressing, eating, and taking medication, that is, tasks that must be well paced and at the appropriate times.
If this is not possible, the best is to distribute the care of the patient equitably to all close relatives.
If this is not possible either, the person in charge of the patient should really consider the possibility of placing him in a specialized center.
In Australia, for example, a treatment has been discovered that helps restore memory. The results so far are very encouraging.
The American Academy of Neurology has also made great strides in this direction. Some drugs have obtained encouraging results in memory recovery.
On the other hand, neurologist Rodolfo Llinas, director of NASA’s “Neurolab” program and recognized worldwide for his research on the brain, claims to have found the cure for Alzheimer’s disease.
Although some doubt his findings, this neuroscience professor at New York University indicates in his publications that in less than ten years, the treatment to cure Alzheimer’s will be within the reach of all.