By Melissa Lahti, Jan. 03 2009
Several times in my line of work I have had the opportunity to work with people who have Alzheimer’s disease. I find this to be a very interesting disease as it affects each person so differently. Some of them walk around endlessly and refuse to sit still while others sit on the couch and refuse to move. As a caregiver I can be talking with someone who seems to be perfectly normal and within a matter of minutes they suddenly don’t know who they are or where they are. They don’t even remember talking to me and will ask my name several times in a short conversation. I chose to research this disease because I realized even though I have spent many hours with Alzheimer’s patients, I really don’t know anything about the disease itself. I am genuinely looking forward to learning more about it.
After browsing through the website for the Alzheimer’s Association www.alz.org I learned a lot. Alzheimer’s was named after the German doctor Alois Alzheimer who first described the disease in 1906. One thing I never realized was that Alzheimer’s can affect people as young as thirty years of age. It typically affects people over the age of sixty-five but, out of the estimated 5.2 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s today about 500,000 are under the age of 65. Every 71 seconds another person develops this disease. As it directly affects the brain it greatly diminishes the quality of life and always leads to fatality. It literally shrinks the brain to a point where it can no longer function.
Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. At this point in time there is no cure for this horrible disease but researchers and doctors have developed a few drugs to help people with the symptoms. Typically a person with Alzheimer’s lives an average of eight years but can live up to twenty years. How long a person lives with the disease depends on the age they were when they were diagnosed and the condition of their health before the disease.
Alzheimer’s may begin to develop in the brain as early as twenty years before diagnosis. At which time a person would have no idea what was coming ahead. That is why alz.org recommends these ten important warning signs of early detection.