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Sunday, May 08, 2011

Alzheimer's Thief of the Mind. Part One

Her name is Vera.

Hey folks,

I've told this story, in one form or another in the past. If you heard it, please bear with me. If not, her name is Vera.

Vera was a 90 year old, sharp as a tack, quick witted, beautiful Woman. I met her while doing a stint in the Nursing Home Industry. I would sit with her for HOURS, talking, laughing, just sharing eachother's company. I, mostly listening. She would tell me stories of the Past, talk about her family, and would always ask how things were with me.

One day, Vera starting to talk to me about this young, beautiful Blond, CNA, named Laura. She would kid about how cute a couple we would make. She then started telling me that Laura thought I was cute.

Little did I know, at the same time, she was talking with Laura when Laura when on her breaks. She was telling her the same about me. That I thought she was cute, and what a beautiful couple we would make.

Fast forward, Marriage, two Sons, and a pretty happy life. Vera was right. So we continued to sit and talk with her, now together. Even after I left, I would still go in and meet with her. She even got to meet Joshua when he was 6 Months old.

As time when on, we noticed Vera slipping away. She started to fade in and out. One minute she was there engaged in the conversation, the next, she was changing subjects abruptly, repeating things she just said, ETC. As time went on, Vera was more out than in, if you will. She would think that I was her Son, Laura her Daughter, however, for some reason, she ALWAYS knew Joshua was Josh. She would start talking about things we had no clue about, but when she looked back at Josh, she would call him by name and even ask how he was doing. Then, she was gone.

It truly was a heart breaking experience. Now my Father In-law is starting to show the signs. What is it? Alzheimer's. Quite literally, the Thief of the Mind.

What is Alzheimer's?

Alzheimer's disease (AD), is one form of dementia that gradually gets worse over time. It affects memory, thinking, and behavior.

Memory impairment, as well as problems with language, decision-making ability, judgment, and personality, are necessary features for the diagnosis.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Age and family history are risk factors for AD.

As you get older, your risk of developing AD goes up. However, developing Alzheimer's disease is not a part of normal aging.

Having a close blood relative, such as a brother, sister, or parent who developed AD increases your risk.

Having certain combination of genes for proteins that appear to be abnormal in Alzheimer's disease also increases your risk.

Other risk factors that are not as well proven include:

Longstanding high blood pressure

History of head trauma

Female gender

There are two types of AD -- early onset and late onset.

In early onset AD, symptoms first appear before age 60. Early onset AD is much less common than late onset. However, it tends to progress rapidly. Early onset disease can run in families. Several genes have been identified.

Late onset AD, the most common form of the disease, develops in people age 60 and older. Late onset AD may run in some families, but the role of genes is less clear.

The cause of AD is not entirely known, but is thought to include both genetic and environmental factors. A diagnosis of AD is made when certain symptoms are present, and by making sure other causes of dementia are not present.

The only way to know for certain that someone has AD is to examine a sample of their brain tissue after death. The following changes are more common in the brain tissue of people with AD:

"Neurofibrillary tangles" (twisted fragments of protein within nerve cells that clog up the cell)

"Neuritic plaques" (abnormal clusters of dead and dying nerve cells, other brain cells, and protein)

"Senile plaques" (areas where products of dying nerve cells have accumulated around protein).

When nerve cells (neurons) are destroyed, there is a decrease in the chemicals that help nerve cells send messages to one another (called neurotransmitters). As a result, areas of the brain that normally work together become disconnected.

The buildup of aluminum, lead, mercury, and other substances in the brain is no longer believed to be a cause of AD.
In Part Two, we will look at what is coming on the Horizon. As the Baby Boomers come of age, so does the risk of the increase of the number of case of people with Alzheimer's. Be right back.

Pub Med Health - Alzheimer's disease
Alzheimer's Association - Generation Alzheimer's

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