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Published on: August 27, 2013
by Monica Kuhns for Journal Star:
A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease can trigger anxiety for seniors and their family caregivers who wonder what’s ahead as the disease progresses. So what can someone with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis expect?
Based on Home Instead Senior Care network research, those with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias who live at home without in-home care reported these common problems:
• challenges in planning (70 percent with dementia compared with 22 percent who did not have dementia);
• memory loss that disrupts daily life (86 percent with dementia compared with 13 percent who did not have dementia);
• confusion with time or place (76 percent with dementia compared with 10 percent who did not have dementia); and
• misplacing things (80 percent with dementia compared with 16 percent who did not have dementia).
Other common problems identified by this research included:
• New problems with words in speaking or writing – 43 percent with dementia compared with 13 percent who did not have dementia;
• Nighttime wakefulness and other sleep problems – 48 percent with dementia compared with 39 percent who did not have dementia;
• Rummaging around or hiding things – 48 percent with dementia compared with 6 percent who did not have dementia;
• Trouble understanding visual image and spatial relationships – 37 percent with dementia compared with 7 percent who did not have dementia;
• Belligerence, anger or aggressive behavior – 28 percent with dementia compared with 15 percent who did not have dementia;
• Hallucinations, delusions or paranoia – 20 percent with dementia compared with 6 percent who did not have dementia;
• Wandering – 22 percent with dementia compared with 1 percent who did not have dementia;
• Refusing to eat – 14 percent with dementia compared with 7 percent who did not have dementia.
Despite this grim expectation, there is hope on the horizon. “The currently available treatments are used when dementia has fully developed,” said Dr. Jane F. Potter, chief of the Division of Geriatrics and Gerontology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
“All of the new trials are focused on early identification to target the stage before dementia – mild cognitive impairment. In the future we should be able to identify and treat people with mild cognitive impairment to keep the disease from progressing,” she said.
“One of the promising areas under study is exercise; it appears that avid exercisers have a lower risk of dementia. So identifying people at risk and developing an activity program are among therapies being considered. All we would have to do is delay the onset of dementia by five years and we eliminate by half the number of years spent with dementia because we would die of other things.”
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