Alzheimer’s Disease is a Growing Problem
With age comes wisdom, a growing family, and a chance to experience life in a different way. For some, growing older means being able to make more memories and share more experiences, but for others remembering those memories or experiences is only half of the struggle. What if recognizing family or enjoying the changes associated with growing older presented the challenges such as losing memories, not being able to complete simple everyday tasks, or even making decisions? These are the effects Alzheimer’s Disease can have on an individual.
Alzheimer’s disease not only steals the memories of the past and of loved ones, but also one’s personal abilities such as adequately caring for themselves. According to Martone and Piotrowski (2017) Alzheimer’s Disease is the most commonly known form of dementia. As the disease progresses, the ability think in higher cognition becomes harder and harder and is essentially lost. Someone with Alzheimer’s loses memories formed most recently in the working memory, but would be more likely to remember things from long ago. In the same article Martone (2017) further specifies that Alzheimer’s makes up sixty to eighty percent of all forms of dementia across different age ranges. This data can help to gain a perspective of just how many people suffer from this awful disease.
Many times researching Alzheimer’s can be difficult concerning the differences and unique challenges each person diagnosed with Alzheimer’s faces. Another difficulty is in ethics. Mintzer (2018) identifies the difficulty of obtaining consent to do research on someone with Alzheimer’s since the disease directly affects the brain’s decision making abilities. Another flaw in Alzheimer’s research is that there is no sure cause or treatment of the disease, so when research is done there is no guarantee of an advancement. Mintzer (2018) describes a non-invasive technique discovered by Dr. William Klunk and his colleagues, and this technique is a way to look at the living brain to detect the presence of amyloid plaque. He writes that for the longest time a presence of amyloid plaque in the brain was a sure diagnosis that someone would develop Alzheimer’s. However, techniques of the past could only be performed after the patient’s death. Once they found a non-invasive technique of looking for amyloid in the brain, researchers were able to identify patients who were neurologically “normal” but were experiencing symptoms of this disease, and those that were experiencing symptoms but did have amyloid plaque in the brain. Later, many drug companies started to perform research with monoclonal antibodies, which were said to remove this plaque from the brain. However, yet again, research development faces the problem of obtaining test subjects. If a study is done and a number of people qualify to be given this treatment for having amyloid plaque on the brain, there is no guarantee any of the participants would have obtained the disease without any treatment.
Mintzer (2018) then gives an example of a sixty-six year old woman who is very active and at the height of her career. She has a family history of dementia, so she decides to go for genetic testing. The tests shown that she was at risk for developing Alzheimer’s since she had one of the genes that researchers think may lead to the development of Alzheimer’s and also is positive for having amyloid plaque on her brain. Although she is at higher risk, if she chooses to be treated for the disease she will spend thousands of dollars a year on treatment and there is no way to be certain she will obtain the disease. Even if she did begin to experience symptoms of Alzheimer’s, there would be no way of telling whether the treatment prompted the symptoms or not. There are many variables that go into the research of Alzheimer’s disease, and there is still a long way to go in developing research to understand it.
Alzheimer’s disease has a very negative impact on so many people around the world but there are not any truly effective treatments yet. However, there are some pharmaceutical approaches currently being used. These drugs act to slow down AD progression and help individuals hang on to their current state for as long as possible. According to Herrmann, Chau, Kircanski, and Lanct??t (2011) the primary treatments today consist of cholinesterase inhibitors and Memantine, and sometimes they are paired together.
Herrmann, Chau, Kircanski, and Lanct??t (2011) state that the cholinesterase inhibitors are primarily meant for the earlier stages of AD and attempt to block acetylcholinesterase. Acetylcholinesterase targets acetylcholine, which is already at a minimal level in those suffering from AD. According to Herrmann, Chau, Kircanski, and Lanct??t (2011) the inhibitors work to improve levels of acetylcholine, which is said to be involved in memory.
Memantine is the other drug currently being used. This drug is intended for those in the later and more severe stages of AD. According to Tariot, Farlow, Grossberg, Graham, McDonald, and Gergel (2004) Memantine increases glutamate levels, which is another neurotransmitter involved in memory. As mentioned before, Memantine is sometimes taken in conjunction with the other drugs. The research by Tariot, Farlow, Grossberg, Graham, McDonald, and Gergel (2004) reports that Memantine may provide added benefits when paired with Donepezil.
Overall, there is not a known remedy or cure for Alzheimer’s Disease. While the drugs mentioned above can be effective at slowing down the disease’s progression, they are only effective for so long. Researchers in the field are continuously working towards a cure and identifying a better long-term solution.
In the United States today, there are 5.3 million people suffering from Alzheimer’s. According to Ault (2015), the amount of people that will endure Alzheimer’s is expected to double by 2050. The article also states that the increase in individuals suffering from this degenerative disease is due to the increasing average lifespan. This increase could potentially be a problem for the families of these individuals with the disease. These families have lives of their own and may not have the patience to care for or want to care for their ill family member. The authors Tilemachos, Fotoula, and Charilaos discussed how problematic the symptoms of Alzheimer’s can be and how these symptoms can be handled efficiently by placing the individual into a facility created for people struggling with the disease.
In the article, it explains how over time Alzheimer’s Disease progresses to higher levels of symptoms. For example, language declines, confusion, mood swings, loss of hope and motivation, and changes in behavior. Not only does the diseased individual experience all these changes, but they also experience the loss of their short term memory. Due to these declines in their daily living, the disease usually causes the individual to stop interacting with everyone around them. Through the progressions of this disease, the overall speed of the changes depends on the person. However, the article states that the person is only expected live three to nine years after they are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Overall, all of their functions decline until they conclude in loss of all of them, which ends the person’s life. These symptoms, decline in health, and short life expectancy after diagnosis can be hard to handle for a caretaker of the individual. Due to this difficulty, many individuals with the disease are sadly outcasted. However, by designing facilities specially made for patients suffering from Alzheimer’s in the future, it can help build research about the disease and better the overall caregiving to the ill person. Through these Alzheimer’s facilities, researchers can evaluate the consistent symptoms of people with the disease. As medicine advances, these facilities could increase the chances of finding a cure. The article also discusses the effect Alzheimer’s has on the caregiver- usually a spouse or close relative. The caregiver is obligated to watch over the ill individual in order to prevent them from injury and aid their memory in times of confusion. This daily cycle for the caregiver can be stressful physically, psychologically, and financially. The stress of the caregiver in each of these dimensions could adversely affect the actual care the diseased patient receives. Using one of these facilities could potentially alleviate some of the burdens put on the caregiver knowing their loved one has all needed care and direction provided.
As stated before, individuals with Alzheimer’s are often outcasted by others. The building of a facility can prevent this from happening by having complete interaction with the patients by onsite caregivers and other patients. Also, the article stated that through these facilities, patients can participate in memory activities multiple times a week. The activities could include art, jewelling, and other interactive activities. The article states that the facility could also be funded by the community by selling this art work and conducting different fundraisers with the community. Not only will this financially support the facility, but also socially support the people with Alzheimer’s. Overall, the building of a Alzheimer’s facility could improve the lives of the individuals living with the disease and generate more research of the disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is a growing problem faced by families and individuals everywhere. With the disease becoming more common and the increase of people living longer with the disease due to longer life expectancy, further research is being conducted to prevent and slow the process. Although there is no current treatment to prevent the disease completely or rid of it, researchers are constantly seeking ways to improve the lives of these ill individuals and increase knowledge of the disease. Through this consistent research and push to find a preventive course of action or cure, there is hope that less families and individuals will endure the side effects of Alzheimer’s Disease.