Dementia is one of the most common health conditions among adults over the age of 65. While many people have heard of the disease and the negative impacts it may have on seniors, few people know how it may affect families, the warning signs of onset dementia or the most effective forms of treatment.
If you're working with older adults or families who may be impacted by dementia, it's important to break down the basics of the disease, from how many people across the world have it to how it differs from Alzheimer's.
Understanding the disease
Generally, the most common trait people associate with Alzheimer's and dementia is memory loss, as seniors with these conditions generally have weaker memories than they did before diagnosis. However, the complexities of this condition extend far beyond the brain's capacity to remember the past - according to the Alzheimer's Association, dementia can also affect a senior's ability to perform basic tasks, such as communicating, eating, focusing and reasoning.
While dementia and Alzheimer's are sometimes used interchangeably, there are differences between them. Alzheimer's disease is a form of dementia, accounting for 60 to 80 percent of cases in the U.S., the Alzheimer's Association reported. The organization also noted that more than 5.2 million people in the U.S. have the condition, the majority of which are over the age of 65.
Signs to look out for
Families that are concerned that a loved one may be exhibiting symptoms of Alzheimer's or dementia should consult the Alzheimer's Association's 10 Early Detection Signs, which chronicles the most common indicators of the disease, including:
- Memory loss
- Confusion or disorientation
- Difficulty choosing words in speech
- Social isolation
- Changes in personality
- Vision problems
- Difficulty with problem solving
- Losing objects
- Difficulty with daily tasks
- Impaired judgment
Treatments that have proven effective
Currently, there exists no cure for Alzheimer's or dementia, but there are many ways that caregivers and families have provided effective treatment to make seniors' daily lives easier. One of the most common forms of therapy administered to those with dementia is music therapy. Many organizations and researchers have linked familiar tunes with increased memory and functioning in Alzheimer's patients. CNN reported that this may be due to the power of particular tunes, as music can not only keep the brain active, but it can also spark memories from seniors' pasts. Whether older adults are bobbing their heads to the beat or learning how to play an instrument, experts agree that music is one of the most powerful tools when it comes to dementia treatments.
The future of Alzheimer's research
Researchers are constantly searching for effective treatments when it comes to curing dementia, or at least staving off its symptoms. Two recent scientific advancements may have a significant impact on Alzheimer's and its treatment in the future.
A group of students from the Yale School of Medicine discovered that one drug was effective in reversing Alzheimer's in mice. The study, published in the journal PLOS Biology, explained that the drug hampered the production of a particular compound that inhibited one's memory. The scientists emphasized that there would be a great deal of research necessary before starting human trials, but the effectiveness in mice was a large step forward for Alzheimer's research.
Another important advancement in the field of Alzheimer's comes from a man living with a rare physical condition, HealthDay News reported. The senior was born without a particular protein - the apolipoprotein E gene - that may shed significant light on the development of dementia. According to the source, those with high levels of the protein have a much greater chance of having Alzheimer's. While the man who was born without it suffers from a series of negative health effects due to its absence, researchers noted that his brain has not been impacted at all, leading them to ponder further studies about how the removal of the protein could affect seniors' brains.