SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Over six million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease. With June being Alzheimer’s and Brain awareness month, medical professionals want those at home to continue to monitor the health of your brain and memory.
Alzheimer’s is one of the many types of Dementia, a brain disorder that causes the brain to create gaps, initially effecting the short-term memory.
“It can have several stages,” said Dr. Adrienne Cohen, Associate Professor at Georgia Southern. “It can effect your memory, it can effect your mood, it can effect the way you interact with other people. It’s a slow progression, initially people might just be confused or can’t remember things and sadly that happens to all of us.”
For many, it can be difficult to determine whether a person’s forgetfulness is caused by a number of underlying factors, like vitamin deficiencies or metabolic-related issues, or if it could potentially be something more serious.
“It’s highly dependent on what you did in your 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and 50’s because, how much you used your cognitive function throughout your whole life can tell you how much reserve you have. So, someone who’s gotten a professional degree or a doctoral degree may have a lot of reserve, so they may have some aspect of Dementia or Alzheimer’s, but they can function in society up until their early 80’s,” explained Dr. Maulik Patel, Geriatric Medicine Physician at Memorial Health.
“It’s not a normal complication of growing older to become confused, disoriented, or to have a poor memory. That’s another thing that happens with people, they start to develop the symptoms and they think, ‘oh I’m just getting older.’ Just to be clear, old age is not a disease and so there’s something underlying that’s causing that,” said Dr. Cohen.
Not only can Alzheimer’s have a major effect on the patient, but the family of the patient effected as well.
“It is a family disease in a sense, because the person that’s afflicted with Alzheimer’s Dementia really has no idea what’s going on, they think the world around them is all of a sudden reacting differently,” said Dr. Patel.
Both Patel and Cohen recommend to not continuously correct a person suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Instead, bring yourself to their level and try to understand and comfort them.
“My suggestion with all people who are supporting someone with Alzheimer’s disease is to go where they are rather than expecting them to come back to you, they’re the one that’s sick. Often the person will remember something, and the people in their life think it’s their responsibility to remind them of what is and isn’t right. People need to understand that it’s a brain disorder and the person truly believes what they’re saying, and you correcting them makes them look at you like you’re crazy,” explained Dr. Cohen.
Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the drug Aduhelm for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Previously, Alzheimer’s treatment could only manage the symptoms, not actively help cure the disease.
With nearly six million Americans effected by Alzheimer’s disease, your chance of being effected doubles every five years you age past 65. Just over 3% of people over the age of 65 are in nursing homes, compared to 75% of people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
For more information on Alzheimer’s disease, research, support groups, strategies on how to care for someone with Alzheimer’s and more, you can visit the Alzheimer’s Association’s website or click here.