Dementia & Alzheimer's

Need to Know
Issue No. 3: Words from the Wise
Illustration - MAIA BOAYKE

Alzheimer’s is a progressive brain disease in which memory and thinking skills decline, eventually affecting the ability to perform daily tasks. There is still a lot unknown about Alzheimer’s, but it appears that damage within the brain starts long before signs and symptoms appear. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s, but treatment for symptoms is available.

The signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s vary greatly among people. Common initial symptoms include memory problems, trouble with word-finding, vision and spatial issues, and impaired judgment or reasoning. As Alzheimer’s progresses, common symptoms include more memory issues, wandering, trouble managing bills, repeating, and personality changes. Further progression to moderate Alzheimer’s involves more confusion, difficulty recognizing family and completing multi-step tasks, and possibly hallucinations and delusions. People with severe Alzheimer’s cannot communicate and are completely dependent on others.

Almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women. Alzheimer's is one of the top ten causes of death in the United States, but the only one on that list that cannot be prevented, cured, or slowed. The greatest risk factor for Alzheimer’s that we currently know is increasing age, but that does not mean that Alzheimer’s is a normal part of aging. Alzheimer’s continues to be a growing area of research, especially focused on understanding the causes and developing better treatments. Early diagnosis and interventions can be helpful, so it’s important to pay attention and seek medical evaluation for yourself or loved ones early on. It is also important to remember that memory loss does not mean that someone necessarily has Alzheimer’s. There are other causes of memory loss such as stroke, infection, tumor, and medication side effects which are important to investigate and rule out. If the memory loss is due to Alzheimer’s, having a diagnosis sooner can possibly delay further progression and help families plan for the future.