The disease is a form of dementia (‘Madness’) that is more prevalent in older people. Some 4–5% of people over 65 yrs of age have symptoms of it but it sometimes strikes those in their forties or fifties.
The disease starts with loss of short term memory, but worsens so that the sufferer has difficulties recognizing people and remembering where they are. On an average people die about 8 years with Alzheimer’s (although this can vary between 2 and 12 years). It is a heartbreaking disease which medical researchers are struggling to understand.
Alzheimer’s is difficult to diagnose and doctors need to perform a battery of tests to ensure that the confusion and memory loss suffered are not due to some other cause like depression, a virus or alcoholism. A correct diagnosis can only be made after death, the brains of Alzheimer’s victims contain unusual structures called plaques and tangles which are clumps of dead or dying nerve cells which are clogged by large amounts of protein. These interfere with the normal function of the brain.
Many people are affected by Alzheimer’s disease either as patients or caregivers. Alzheimer’s disease can be difficult to cope with, especially for the family surrounding the person with the disease. If you care for a person with Alzheimer’s, building creativity and energy into your day to day life can help relieve stress and foster a healthy relationship for you and your loved one.