What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and it accounts for approximately 60 to 80-percent of all dementia cases. Classified as a neuro-degenerative disorder, the actual cause is unknown, but is most often diagnosed in individuals over 65 years of age. That said, Alzheimer’s is not part of the aging process, even though some may initially confuse it with aged-related concerns such as a decrease in cognitive abilities.
In the early stages, the disease manifests itself in short term memory loss, but as the disease progresses symptoms can include mood swings, irritability, aggression, trouble speaking, confusion, and/or long term memory loss. As the condition worsens, it’s not uncommon for the patient to begin to withdraw from friends, family and other loved ones, or fail to recognize them at all. Ultimately the disease leads to complete loss of body function and death. The speed at which this happens varies on a case-by-case basis, but the average life expectancy following diagnosis is approximately 7 years. However, a relatively small number (about 2.5%) of Alzheimer’s patients live more than 14 years after initial diagnosis.
The diagnosis is typically confirmed with a test, or series of tests that help mental health professionals better evaluate and analyze cognitive ability amongst the affected individual. An additional brain scan is often required if the test offers significant evidence to suggest that it could be Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. However, the only true way to conclusively determine the presence of Alzheimer’s disease is through an examination of brain tissue, which often occurs post-mortem if the family elects to opt for the procedure. The disease makes the brain appear to be shrinking and shows up as a series of plaques and tangles within the brain on an MRI machine.
What Methods Are Used in Alzheimer’s Therapy?
There are no known treatments to stop or reverse the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, but there are techniques that are known to temporarily ease the symptoms. Psychotherapists often use mental stimulation, exercise, dietary changes and memory-strengthening games in order to attempt to delay cognitive symptoms, with some level of effectiveness.
There are also a handful of medications approved by the FDA to treat Alzheimer’s that work by regulating the neurotransmitters in the brain responsible for sending signals from one synapse to another (target) synapse.
Why Hire a Therapist?
Alzheimer’s therapy can often provide great relief to you or your loved one by helping to manage the symptoms. While the symptoms of Alzheimer’s start relatively mild, they will progress to a point in which they are completely debilitating. A properly trained therapist can help you or your loved one battle the memory loss, confusion, and mood disorders that accompany the disease. In addition, there are medications that are approved by the FDA to help maintain brain function in moderate to severe cases of Alzheimer’s.
While there currently isn’t a cure to the disease, a therapist can help not only the affected patient to deal with the symptoms, but can also assist the family with questions as to what to expect, how to best handle the care of a loved one, and options for end of life care.
What to Look for In a Therapist
Therapists with previous experience in Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia are often the most capable in dealing with this rather complicated disease. As with anything else, finding a therapist is all about finding one that you and your loved ones have the most confidence and trust in. Therapy is a two way street and the best results come from establishing a great working relationship with the therapist you choose. Therapy Tribe hopes to make your search easier by allowing visitors to utilize our directory to find a therapist in your area that specializes in the condition that ails you, or your loved one.