Alzheimer’s disease is something that millions of people have or are affected by, but it’s also something that everyone experiences a little different, whether they live in Cedar Rapids or elsewhere, or are at the beginning or in the hospice stage of their journey.
The staff at Above and Beyond Home Health Care has been working with patients with many forms of dementia including Alzheimer’s disease. They’re familiar with all the stages and have also worked with family members and caregivers dealing with the condition. Loved ones may be at different stages, so any advice and support are always appreciated.
Although research continues and there are a lot of unknowns, science has been making regular discoveries into what is happening to the brain and body through the entire process, from the first indications to the final stages.
The Alzheimer’s Association is a useful source for all sorts of information about what could be taking place in someone’s life. It also contains plenty of helpful details and pointers about how to get support in communities around the world.
The association and other advocacy groups also stress that it’s important to continue research and funding additional research to allow more discoveries to continue.
Part of the education includes spreading the word about the things not everyone knows about Alzheimer’s disease. Some of these items include:
- It can start earlier. For a long time, Alzheimer’s disease was thought of as an ‘old person’s disease,’ because the symptoms typically begin to be noticed around age 65, and the rate of being diagnosed grows every year after that. Around the mid-60s is when the brain decay and abnormal protein deposits are beginning to be seen, as well as some of the recognizable behaviors. However, research is showing that the actual decay and break down of these cells can begin at least 10 years earlier. Since no one thought to look for these signs in people in their 50s, it wasn’t noticed. Science still hasn’t found ways to predict how or when someone will have this, whether there are environmental or genetic reasons for some people having it or both.
- Heart connections. Your heart health may play a role in your risk of having Alzheimer’s disease. While exact causes are unknown, researches continue to make medical profiles of people who have Alzheimer’s disease, and often a common link is poor cardiovascular health. Those with high blood pressure, diabetes, poor diet, high cholesterol and who aren’t physically active have a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease. These factors can lead to the build-up of other plaques and other forms of dementia, which may affect blood flow to the brain, and creating conditions for the conditions that cause Alzheimer’s disease.
- Exercising your brain helps. While Alzheimer’s remains a permanent disease, people diagnosed with it can sometimes resist for several years and keep symptoms from advancing quickly by using their brain in different ways. There are a variety of different ways to stimulate different areas of the brain, everything from learning a new language, studying and playing music to exploring a different neighborhood on a regular basis. Using your short-term and long-term memory can also benefit. Even though existing brain cells are becoming affected by plaque, adding new information can help create new and different pathways for information to spread.
- Exercising your body helps. Doctors generally indicate that exercise is good for you physically anytime, which is good advice. But research into Alzheimer’s disease has concluded that regular activity can often do an effective job in strengthening the entire body, including the brain. The Mayo Clinic can’t definitively state that exercise always helps memory loss and brain function, but does say there are all sorts of physical and mental benefits from physical activity so it’s likely that the brain can also benefit. Perhaps better blood flow and circulation through the body may also boost blood flow to the brain.
- Loss of smell. While loss of memory and general cognition is fairly common as the brain begins to deteriorate, not everyone knows that something else that also can happen is a loss of smell. This sometimes may translate into a loss of taste. This could be related to a deterioration of smell receptors higher in the nasal cavity closer to the brain. In some cases, these can be diminished by a cold or damage to the nose, but deterioration from Alzheimer’s disease can permanently affect the ability to tell the differences in flavors and textures. While it may seem like flavors of food can be affected, it could also have some health and safety implications like not being able to smell smoke when there’s a fire or a gas leak or even able to detect if food is good or spoiled.
Going through the different stages of Alzheimer’s disease can often be scary and confusing for people, especially if they look to the future as symptoms could progress to needing hospice care.
The team at Above and Beyond Home Health Care is happy to help educate people and work with caregivers to share what could happen or recommend what help can be needed.