As America’s millions of Baby Boomers get even older, a common concern for many of them is the increase in cases of Alzheimer’s disease. With that in mind, November has been officially designated as National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, with the goal of helping people to understand the disease and its effects on elder citizens.
Alzheimer’s Awareness Month was created in 1983 by President Ronald Reagan, who later suffered from the condition himself. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, in the early 1980s there were probably fewer than two million Americans with the disease, but data suggests that more than 5.5 million people now have Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible brain disorder that gradually destroys memory and thinking skills. The early symptoms of Alzheimer’s vary, but common signs include forgetting recently learned information or being unable to recall important dates or events. Other indications may be the need to ask for the same information over and over, or having to rely on memory aids, such as electronic devices.
Older adults are more susceptible
For most people with Alzheimer’s, the symptoms first appear in their mid-60s, and the majority of those with the disease are over age 65. However, Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of growing older, and one of the great mysteries of the problem is why it largely affects elder adults.
Research on normal brain aging is providing some answers. Scientists are studying how age-related changes, such as inflammation or atrophy of certain parts of the brain, or the breakdown of cellular energy, may harm healthy neurons and contribute to Alzheimer’s damage.
Considering those risks, it is imperative for elder citizens to be aware of the disease’s symptoms and the need to prepare for the possibility of Alzheimer’s striking them – or a loved one.
Know the warning signs of Alzheimer’s
Because Alzheimer’s is a brain disorder that causes problems with memory, thinking, and reasoning functions related to mental abilities are among the first symptoms. Examples of common warning signs would include trouble remembering names and words that have always been familiar to you or feeling confused about normal activities. Unfortunately, Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, which means it usually worsens over time. What may seem like relatively harmless memory lapses in its early stages can degenerate into serious cognitive impairment, to the point where patients lose their ability to carry on a conversation or perform simple tasks.
The signs can go beyond mental processing. Some Alzheimer’s patients exhibit symptoms, such as loss of interest in favorite hobbies, withdrawal from social activities, and changes in personality.
The Alzheimer’s Association has created an in-depth list of ten frequent warning signs, and that list can be found at their website. If you find yourself struggling with those symptoms, you should take them seriously and talk to your doctor.
Although Alzheimer’s disease has no specific cure, there are five approved medications which treat the symptoms and can potentially slow its progression. Alzheimer’s researchers strive to identify early changes in the brains of people with the disease, so prompt detection is important to help those efforts and improve doctors’ diagnostic abilities.
Take steps to reduce your risks
Experts suggest many different strategies, which may be helpful in lowering your chances of suffering from Alzheimer’s. For instance, improving one’s overall health also should keep the brain stronger. Some autopsy results show that as many as 80 percent of individuals with Alzheimer’s also have cardiovascular disease. Therefore, it just makes sense to stay physically active, watch your cholesterol, and lower your blood pressure.
Other studies indicate that staying socially involved and mentally active might lower the risk of Alzheimer’s. That may be due to cerebral mechanisms which stimulate and strengthen connections between nerve cells in the brain.
It also is important to have a comprehensive estate plan in place. If you or a loved one were to be impacted by Alzheimer’s, it could seriously affect your ability to designate which of your family members will inherit your assets, or how you will have your later medical care provided.
The experienced elder law attorneys at Cordell Planning Partners provide affordable smart solutions to help seniors with estate plans, wills, trusts, Power of Attorney documents, and other safeguards for your future.
Cordell Planning Partners also offers free educational workshops, where we explain the various asset-protection programs, all in terms that are easy to understand.