Article by Marilyn Hallett, You've Earned It
“My father is only 72 years old. I remember him as the rock in my life – he was a tall, strong, well-built, joyful man. That man is no longer. He has become a thin shell of a man – he is fearful, he doesn’t trust anyone and he wanders. It’s just not fair – he should be enjoying his retirement years, not enduring this awful disease”. Our hearts go out to Jenny and her family.
Alzheimer’s disease, named after the German psychiatrist and neuropathologist, Alois Alzheimer in 1906, is the most common form of dementia. There is currently no cure for this disease. It gets worse as it progresses and it eventually leads to death. It generally affects people who are aged 65 years plus.
36 million people in the world have Alzheimer’s disease. Approximately 750 000 people in South Africa are affected by the disease. It is anticipated that the number of people suffering from Alzheimer’s will rise to over 115 million by 2050.
Today, throughout the world, one person is diagnosed with dementia, every 4 seconds.
Most South African medical aids do not currently recognise Alzheimer’s as a chronic illness. Alzheimer’s sufferers need full-time care when the disease reaches advanced stages, and the families of sufferers not only go through emotional trauma, but many face financial difficulties due to the high cost of care and medication.
While the risk of developing dementia increases dramatically with age, not all older people develop the condition. It is not an inevitable consequence of getting older; with only one in five people in their eighties, for example, being affected by it. Neither is dementia associated with any particular race, gender or culture and people in all walks of life may be affected, from academics to labourers. The late Ronald Reagan suffered from Alzheimer’s as did Margaret Thatcher, Harold Wilson and the actress Rita Hayworth.
Alzheimer’s SA provides a national helpline, support, education, training and information for families, individuals and carers who are battling with Alzheimer’s.
YEI asked Bernadette Lawrence, National Director of Alzheimer’s SA if there were any lifestyle factors that could lead to Alzheimer’s, and what advice she could provide to the families of Alzheimer’s sufferers.
“Our advice would be to have regular health check-ups. High blood pressure, cholesterol, obesity, HIV/Aids / alcohol could be contributing factors.
Results have shown that stroke patients can show signs of dementia. A good balanced diet, exercise and keeping oneself mentally active is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. But this is not to say that a healthy, energetic person will not contract dementia.
If you think a person is showing signs of Alzheimer’s please have them checked with the family doctor before doing anything else. The doctor should refer you to a specialist. Alzheimer’s cannot be prevented but if diagnosed correctly and timeously, there is medication available to slow down the process and to assist with creating a better balance in life.
Alzheimer’s South Africa has support groups around the country and these play an integral part of family life/support/understanding.”
The ten warning signs of Alzheimer’s:
There are many common symptoms and warning signs, but Alzheimer’s disease does develop differently for every individual. The ten warning signs of Alzheimer’s, which may only be recognized in retrospect, are:
A: A memory problem which is NOT caused by alcohol abuse or head injury which worsens over time.
L: Language Problems. Difficulty in naming objects, and finding the right word to use in a sentence.
Z: Zips and Buttons are difficult to fasten. People with Alzheimer’s find it hard to dress themselves.
H: Hygiene. Those with Alzheimer’s may not care about how they look and may not want to bath.
E: Extreme mood swings. A change in mood for no reason – for example, being calm then suddenly becoming scared or angry and aggressive, within minutes.
I: Impaired judgement. Strange behaviour – like wearing underclothes over top clothes or taking clothes off in public.
M: Many people with Alzheimer’s get lost in familiar places such as their own neighbourhood.
E: Even recognition of their own family and friends becomes difficult.
R: Recalls memories of childhood at times, but cannot remember anything that happened the same day.
S: Suspicious of other people and may accuse them of stealing or hiding things.
Article provided by You've Earned It.
You've Earned It!