Alzheimer’s Disease is a Progressive Disease
One thing is certain… every day we get a little bit older. With age comes wisdom, a growing family, and a chance to experience life in a different way, but what if recognizing family or enjoying the changes associated with growing older was unfeasible? What if that new experience was filled with the struggle of losing memories that filled one’s life before, or not being able to remember how to complete simple everyday tasks and make decisions? These are the effects Alzheimer’s Disease can have on an individual. This 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, Robert L., Piotrowski, and Nancy A., PhD (2017) Alzheimer’s Disease is “a progressive disease resulting in the loss of higher cognitive function; [it is] the most common form of dementia.” 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) says this about Alzheimer’s, “Alzheimer’s disease is now recognized as the most common form of dementia, composing sixty to eighty percent of all dementias across different age groups. In the United States, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, 5.5 million people had the disease by early 2017. Of those afflicted with the disease, around 5.3 million were sixty-five and older while about two hundred thousand were under the age of sixty-five.” From this data, one is able to gain a perspective of just how many people suffer from this awful disease and is able to abolish the stigma of only elderly people getting Alzheimer’s as invalid.
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. In the journal by Jacobo Mintzer (2018), he 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) gives a brief report of a publication by Dr. Klunk describing an advancement researchers have made in identifying a cause and possible treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. 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. Once they found a non-invasive technique of looking for amyloid in the brain, researchers were able to identify patients who were “normal”, but were experiencing symptoms of this disease. 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. As one may be able to conclude 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 and unfortunately there is currently no cure for the disease. However, there are some pharmaceutical approaches currently being used. These pharmaceuticals are intended to slow the progression of and help maintain the cognitive function in individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. The primary clinical treatments today consist of a group of cholinesterase inhibitors, Memantine, a N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) antagonist, and a combination of the two.
The cholinesterase inhibitors currently being used are Galantamine, Rivastigmine, and Donepezil. These drugs are meant for individuals in the mild to moderate stages of Alzheimer’s disease and focus on inhibiting acetylcholinesterase. Acetylcholinesterase is an enzyme that attacks the neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, which is already at a low level in those with Alzheimer’s disease. According to N. Herrmann, S. A. Chau, I. Kircanski, & K. L. Lanct??t, (2011) these drugs work to increase the levels of acetylcholine, which is involved in learning and memory.
Another pharmaceutical being implemented to control the disease is Memantine. This drug is intended for those in the moderate to severe stages of Alzheimer’s disease. As stated by P. N. Tariot, M. R. Farlow, G. T. Grossberg, S. M. Graham, S. McDonald, and I. Gergel, (2004) Memantine increases glutamate levels, which is another neurotransmitter involved in learning and memory. Memantine may also be paired with a cholinesterase inhibitor. Research by P. N. Tariot, M. R. Farlow, G. T. Grossberg, S. M. Graham, S. McDonald, and I. Gergel, (2004) reports that Memantine may provide added benefits when paired with Donepezil.
Overall, there is no real treatment to stop the brain deterioration caused by this disease. While the drugs mentioned above can help slow down the progression of Alzheimer disease, they are only effective for a short period of time. There is, however, ongoing research in the hopes of finding a more effective alternative treatment.
In the United States today, there are 5.3 million people suffering from Alzheimer’s. According to “Treating Alzheimer’s Disease” by Alicia Ault, 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 mean lifespan of people today. This could potentially be a problem for the families of these individuals with the disease. The families have lives of their own and may not be able to have the patience or even want to take care of their ill family member. In the journal, Design Evaluation of a Communal Care Building Facility for People with Alzheimer’s Disease, they discuss 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 states, “As the AD advances, symptoms can include: problems with language, disorientation (including easily getting lost), loss of motivation, mood swings, not managing self-care, and behavioral issues (Burns and Iliffe, 2009; NIA, 2015; Porsteinsson et al., 2014). The most common early symptom of AD is difficulty in remembering recent events (short term memory loss) (Burns and Iliffe, 2009). As a person’s condition declines, she or he often withdraws from society and family (Burns and Iliffe, 2009). Although the speed of progression can vary, the average life expectancy following diagnosis is three to nine years (Querfurth and LaFerla, 2010; Todd et al., 2013). Gradually, bodily functions are lost, ultimately leading to death (Querfurth and LaFerla, 2010).” Overall, 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 these facilities in the future, it can help build research about the disease and better the overall caregiving to the ill person. Through these facilities, researchers can evaluate the consistent symptoms and facts of people with Alzheimer’s and as medicine furthers maybe come up with a cure to the disease. The article also discusses in detail how much effect the disease has on the caregiver, which is usually a spouse or close relative. The caregiver ultimately has to keep total watch over the ill individual to prevent them from injury and extra measures of direction during their times of confusion. This daily cycle for the caregiver can be stressful physically, psychologically, and financially. The stress of the caregiver in all these dimensions could adversely affect the actual care the Alzheimer disease patient. This all could be prevented by placing the patient in a facility that contains all the needed care and direction for the individual. For example, memory triggering arrows and signs, and aesthetic design in the facility.
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 has become 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, hopefully less families and individuals will endure the side effects of Alzheimer’s Disease.