Diagnosis Alzheimer's Disease - What You Need to Know

Alzheimer's Disease (AD) is the number one cause of dementia in the United States. Pieces of proteins called plaques form in the brain. The plaques disrupt the connections between brain cells which means the brain can no longer save new information. As more and more plaques form they also kill off brain cells.

Scientists and doctors don't know the causes of Alzheimer's disease. At this time, there is no cure for AD and most research focuses on treatments that allow patients to retain their independence. The drug treatments that are available can only temporarily improve brain function. As the plaques kill more and more brain cells, the drug treatments become ineffective.

As the disease progresses, your family member will continue to lose skills and abilities. He will remember less. He will be less able to complete daily tasks such as bathing or dressing without your help. Over time more and more basic functions are lost, your family member may not be able to speak, walk or function independently in any way.

Things to consider when faced with a diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease

  1. Find the right doctor to manage your family member's care and get your family member on the drugs typically prescribed for Alzheimer's patients. The drugs will enhance and extend your family member's independence.
  2. Begin to build a total long term care plan of how you will meet your family member's needs. Patients with Alzheimer's disease can live as long as twenty years after diagnosis. Your family member's need for care for will increase as the years pass. Knowing how you will provide care and how the family will pay for it are critical.
  3. Talk with your family member about his wishes for care in the future. Now is the time to have conversations that will not be possible in the future. Make sure that the appropriate legal tools are created to assist your family member.
  4. Take time to have fun and make memories. If there is a trip you want to take or an activity that you want to participate in with your family member, the early stages are the time to do it.
  5. Join a support group. The Alzheimer's Association sponsors support groups for both caregivers and early stage AD patients.

To learn more about Alzheimer's Disease follow these links.
Alzheimer's Association
Family Caregiver Alliance

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