Therapy is a necessary treatment for people living with Alzheimer’s. When this disease kicks in, trying to handle it without assistance from a professional therapist is like pulling teeth. Through therapy, the sufferer can manage their symptoms better for peace of mind and physical relief. Not to mention, therapy offers incredible benefits to the family as well.
Alzheimer’s – Everything You Should Know
Alzheimer’s is a degenerative brain disease and the most popular type of dementia. The victim suffers progressive memory loss accompanied by impaired cognitive processes. Eventually, Alzheimer’s disease will impair normal functioning.
Cause and Disease Progression
There’s a lot of debate around the cause of Alzheimer’s disease. Nonetheless, the main cause of the disease is yet to be established. Scientists have linked the condition to brain changes and abnormal build-up of proteins around the cells.
One of the proteins that build up in the brain is amyloid. The accumulation of this leads to the formation of plaques around the brain cells. Tau is another common protein that may accumulate in the cells. It forms tangles around cells. Both these protein build-ups are seen through MRIs.
It’s through this process that therapists diagnose Alzheimer’s. However, whether these proteins form due to Alzheimer’s or they cause the condition is still not clear.
Nevertheless, scientists are always trying to develop new treatments to reduce the symptoms. However, so far, the treatments available have only been able to reduce the effects of the condition for some people. They do not cure Alzheimer’s disease.
Consequently, individuals who have Alzheimer’s disease can enjoy a better quality of life. Besides, there may be light at the end of this dark tunnel. Scientists are going above and beyond to discover better ways to delay the condition’s onset or cure it once and for all. Therefore, it may be a matter of time before we get a cure for this disease.
Does Alzheimer’s Only Affect Old Age People?
There’s a common misconception that Alzheimer’s disease is an “old people disease.” This couldn’t be further from the truth. While the condition mostly presents itself in individuals aged 65 and above, it’s possible to get it earlier than this.
An estimated 200,000 individuals develop Alzheimer’s disease as early as age 50 or 60 years of age. This is referred to as early-onset Alzheimer’s. You should also know that, while Alzheimer’s disease comes with symptoms that mimic aging, it’s not a normal part of the aging process.
Diagnosis – How Does It Happen?
Individuals who suspect that they have Alzheimer’s disease can see one of three doctors, i.e., a neurologist, general physician, or a geriatric specialist. A neurologist specializes in treating issues with the brain, and a geriatric specialist handles all things to do with age-related problems.
The doctor will first need to analyze the patient’s medical records to understand their history. Afterward, they will ask the sufferer about their symptoms during the assessment stage. In addition to this, the doctor will conduct a series of tests. Some of the Alzheimer’s tests include MRIs, lab tests, and psychological analyses.
All these tests are done to evaluate a patient’s memory, thought processes, and their ability to carry out day-to-day activities. Furthermore, the combination of tests enables the physician to identify behavioral changes and mood swings. This way, they’re able to rule out other forms of dementia during diagnosis.
Sadly, the only way they can tell for sure a patient suffered from Alzheimer’s disease is to evaluate their brain during an autopsy.
Alzheimer’s Disease Stages
In the early stages, it’s easy to dismiss Alzheimer’s symptoms. You see, in the beginning, the sufferer only seems forgetful. Therefore, loved ones may assume something like forgetting where they put their keys is normal and short-term because they’re getting older. It’s different when the disease progresses further – the symptoms become harder to dismiss.
The victim starts showing symptoms like irritability, extreme confusion, mood changes, paranoia, and disorientation. He/she may also start getting really suspicious of loved ones for no apparent reason. In some cases, the sufferer may also experience challenges swallowing and speaking. And with all cases, these symptoms are accompanied by severe short or long-term memory loss.
As the disease continues getting worse, most individuals start isolating themselves. The victim may draw away from loved ones and other people. They also forget places and people they know, i.e., spouses, pets, children, siblings, coworkers, daily tasks, workplaces, and other familiar faces and places.
Towards the end stages, there’s the deterioration of the body and brain cells. Ultimately it leads to death. However, the end stages don’t happen overnight. It may take years for your loved one to get to the final stages. And at this point, improving your loved one’s quality of life with treatment is close to impossible.
How Long Do Alzheimer’s Sufferers Live?
After diagnosis, your loved one has about eight to ten years to live. However, this varies from one individual to another. Some people only live for a few years after diagnosis, and others live for up to two decades.
However, you should know that Alzheimer’s disease may go undiagnosed for many years. Due to its resemblance to normal signs of aging, most people dismiss the disease’s early symptoms. As a result, your loved one may go up to three years with undiagnosed Alzheimer’s disease while showing symptoms.
Which Non-Medicine Approaches Do Specialists Use To Treat The Disease?
Currently, scientists have not come up with a cure for this disease. Physicians can only help your loved one cope through non-medicine therapy and medication. In most cases, the sufferers will have to work with a licensed therapist for most of these treatments.
Common drug-free approaches that can improve the person’s quality of life include:
- Physical activity;
- Progressive lifestyle changes;
- Incorporation of a healthy diet;
- Proper sleep;
- Vitamin supplementation;
The purpose of these approaches is to delay symptoms of the disease. Here’s a breakdown of the most common procedures used and how they work.
Aromatherapy for Providing a Feeling of Calm
This type of therapy involves the use of oils to keep your loved one calm. Besides, it’s a good way to trigger the victim’s memory using scents they are familiar with. Not to mention, it makes it easier for them to connect with their surroundings.
Using music is an effective strategy to keep Alzheimer’s disease under control. Research shows that individuals link specific songs to memories and past events. Through music, therapists help the patient remember forgotten memories without too much stress. Not to mention, music is soothing and improves their mood.
Pet Therapy for Encouraging Responsibility
Research shows that pet therapy may be an effective way of managing depression and improving self-esteem in people living with Alzheimer’s. Not to mention, the pet gives the sufferer some responsibility, which is crucial for managing the disease’s symptoms.
However, for this approach to work, it’s crucial that the doctor chooses the right animal. The pet should be an animal the person likes and one that shares their disposition and activity levels. For instance, if the victim has excellent mobility, a dog may be a perfect choice. They can go for walks together and enjoy other outdoor activities. However, if the person’s mobility is impaired, it would be best to choose a pet like a cat or a lap dog.
Coping Through Art Therapy and Creative Projects
Another effective way to help Alzheimer’s victims cope is through art therapy. It’s a positive outlet for the sufferer to express him/herself. Besides, it may boost memory if they’re engaging in familiar activities.
Religion Therapy to Connect to a Higher Power
The opportunity to connect with a higher power in times of distress can give the person peace of mind. Not to mention, attending religious events and participating in activities helps the patient easily connect with other people and boosts their memory. What’s more, it’s an excellent way to encourage the person to get out of the house and socialize hence preventing isolation.
Scrapbooking to Trigger Old Memories
Scrapbooking helps by boosting the victim’s memory. The therapist may ask the family members to provide pictures of friends, relatives, and activities the individual has participated in. These images not only boost their memory but may also provide joy. Not to mention, it’s a great comfort to Alzheimer’s patients who are often disoriented and confused about what’s happening around them.
Do Doctors Prescribe Medication For Alzheimer’s?
Yes! Therapists and physicians may also prescribe certain medications. However, medications prescribed to Alzheimer’s patients don’t cure the disease.
They’re only meant to manage the symptoms, boost memory, and slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Also, each of these medications comes with side effects, which may take a toll on older people compared to young individuals.
Medications prescribed for Alzheimer’s disease fall into two categories.
These drugs are prescribed to deal with symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease affecting thought processes. They also do an excellent job of delaying symptoms and preventing them from getting worse. The drugs in this category are also commonly well tolerated, with only minimal side effects in those affected.
Effective for memory improvement and also helps patients get better at completing simple tasks. In most cases, the drugs in this category can be used alone. However, combined with cholinesterase inhibitors, they are excellent for advanced cases.
Is It A Good Idea To See A Therapist?
Yes! Seeing a professional therapist to treat Alzheimer’s disease will prove invaluable to both you, the caregiver, and your loved one. Therapy sessions help the patient learn how to cope and keep their symptoms in check. The sessions also offer you the support you need when the disease progresses to a debilitating state.
Besides, a well-trained therapist will help ensure the process is as pain-free as possible. You’ll also learn what to expect and how to take good care of your loved one in the tougher stages. Therapists can also advise on end of life options when it gets to that. This process makes it so much easier for the family during these difficult times.
Finding A Professional That Suits Your Needs
It’s crucial to choose a therapist specializing in treating Alzheimer’s disease. The therapist should also be someone who meshes easily with everyone involved as well because it’s expected to be a long-term relationship.
It’s also essential to go for a therapist with a good track record. Most importantly, you should trust the doctor. Otherwise, the therapy won’t be successful.
To find the best therapists specializing in Alzheimer’s disease, compare several specialists and narrow down to the best. It may also be a good idea to read user reviews or get recommendations from people who’ve benefited from these services.