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The Changing Mind of Alzheimer’s Disease
The experiences, knowledge, and emotion an 80-year-old brain must hold are Inconceivable. As a person ages there Is a normal progression of symptoms such as dementia. Including memory loss, How does one know when memory loss is more significant than normal aging? When should one become concerned of a dementia such as Alchemist’s disease?
An official diagnosis of Alchemist’s disease (AD) is given when an autopsy confirming cognitive, personality, ND behavioral changes caused by plaque buildup in the neurons of the human brain. At present more than five million Americans are affected by AD (Alchemist’s Association, 2010). According to the Alchemist’s Association (2010) the current report states that African Americans and Hispanics are at greater risk of developing AD. There seems to be no apparent genetic reason for the increased risk of these specific ethnic groups.
According to the interactive web article Inside the Brain: An Interactive Tour “the adult human brain contains 100 billion neurons, or nerve cells, that branch UT to 100 trillion points” (Alchemies Association, 2010). The neurons and their branched points, which resemble a root bulb of a tree, are the main focus of the plaque buildup In and around the neurons and their parts. The plaque buildup Is the cause of a person’s loss of cognitive function. Neurons connect with one another at synapses, where electrical charges cause the release of neurotransmitters.
Neurotransmitters travel from one synapses to another when a person is thinking, learning, or remembering. The plaque that inhibits the neurons from properly injunction can be compared to turning Off circuit breaker to an electrical outlet. A lamp can still be plugged Into the outlet but will not function without electrical current provided by the circuit. Cognitive function controls how Ideas are perceived, how a person reasons, and how experiences are remembered. With loss of reason and misconceived perception the AD patient who continues to live independently may become a danger to him or herself and others.
Continued loss of cognitive function in the AD patient will eventually strip him or her of independence. A arson’s level of cognitive function is tested using the Mini-Mental State Examination (MESS) to scale the severity of dementia. Although MESS Is not conclusive in diagnosing AD, It Is effective In determining severity of dementia (Praxis Press, 2000). Early stages of AD resemble the normal aging process such as forgetting or confusing the names of children, grandchildren, other familiar people, and places.
As the disease progresses the severity of loss of function also progresses until the AD patient is no longer able to be safely left alone. At some point, patients suffering room AD are Institutionalized or continuously cared for by a spouse or child. In the AD brain the cognitive function decreases. Patients then experience personality changes. The human brain can be compared to the way radio waves transmit and receive. A cloudy day affects radio waves as plaque buildup affects the human brain with AD, blocking the signals that normally would be received loud and clear.
The blocked signals cause the AD patient to react abnormally to familiar information or situations. The abnormal reactions to familiar circumstances result in personality change (Cheerier & Hey. P. 6). Agitation and frustration may occur from a simple task like dressing, in which the AD patient may forget the order in which clothes are put on. As the disease progresses the person who once was, becomes nearly unrecognizable in terms of personality and character. Most AD patients are aware of changes within themselves occurring but cannot completely comprehend what the changes are or how to deal with them.
This confusion may cause fear and frustration, which may lead to aggressive behavior. Caregivers of AD patients must understand how these frustrations occur and how to instruct the patient through recesses done in a certain order. AD patients have difficulty with complex instructions. A caregiver should give simple, one-step directions to avoid overwhelming confusion for the AD patient. In addition, caregivers should familiarize themselves with the triggers of each individual AD patient they care for. For example, many AD patients do not like showers. They may become agitated or even combative when they are forced to shower.
In a facility such as a nursing home, this information is documented within a patients chart so that caregivers can avoid injury to the patient and themselves. Finally, with reduced cognitive function and personality changes, behaviors naturally change becoming an issue. In AD patients these changes occur as a result of increasing plaque buildup. As personality changes, a person exhibits behavior uncommon to his or her individual. A deeply religious patient may curse or a patient who is commonly known to be gentle may become aggressive or even abusive when a caregiver presents an activity he or she does not understand.
Another behavior an AD patient commonly exhibits is wandering. Wandering can be attributed to the AD patient’s level of comfort when tinting, the need to use the restroom, searching for people, or items from his or her past (Cheerier ; Hey, 2005). To reduce wandering caregivers should create a safe place for this kind of behavior, place items like hats and coats out of view, or distract with another activity (Cheerier ; Hey, 2005). When AD patients are facilitated an alarm system is commonly used to warn caregivers of patients entering or being too close to an area in which they may be harmed.
A wandering AD patient can be a dangerous situation if he or she wanders away from safety. Doors that lead to outside, especially those of upper level fire escape stair ways, can present danger to a person who is physically unstable in gait and confused about his or her surroundings. Extreme weather is also a concern to the caregivers of AD patients wandering outdoors as they cannot perceive weather accurately and dress appropriately. Versions of these alarms are also used when AD patients are resting in bed as these patients are at increased risk of falling because of their wavering spatial perception.
These alarms have sensory mats placed under the bedding and mound when pressure is released; indicating that a patient is rising (or is trying to attributed to AD. For example, many people with AD experience weight loss (Del Prêt, Covenants, Crack, Floor, ; Angelical. 2009). The AD patient may forget to eat or become confused when attempting to prepare food and eventually the thought of hunger becomes lost in the confusion. These reasons and many more are the cause of most patients to become facilitated or have a live-in caregiver.
Although AD is difficult to diagnose and manage, scientific strides are being made using dedications that slow and possibly reverse plaque buildup in and around neurons. Understanding how plaque inhibits neurons from working properly causing cognitive, personality and behavioral changes has been a slow advancement throughout many years. Many patients have shown slowed development of plaque with medication and diet modification (Prevention, 2008). Many unknown factors still exist of how AD develops. Consideration of genetics, environment, lifestyle, and diet are slowly advancing AD research.
Hope lives for a cure of this growing disease that affects much of the elderly population in America. In the meantime, management is becoming more effective with possible reversal of the neuron plaques on the threshold.