Dealing with Disability: Diagnosing and Treating Elderly Alzheimer’s
As one of the top 10 causes of death in the United States, Alzheimer’s disproportionately affects the elderly and over five million Americans are affected by the disease. “Alzheimer’s is the only top 10 American cause of death that cannot be slowed, cured or prevented, and one out of three elderly Americans dies from Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia,” states the Alzheimer’s Association. Given these dire statistics, providing seniors with proper Alzheimer’s care and treatment is essential.
When dealing with Alzheimer’s, it is imperative to diagnose Alzheimer’s early, and most importantly, accurately. This way, you can treat all of the Alzheimer’s symptoms such as memory loss and behavioral issues as effectively as possible. The following article provides essential tips on assessing, diagnosing and treating Alzheimer’s in the elderly.
The Importance of an Early, and Accurate Diagnosis
Although Alzheimer’s is a dire disease, it can be diagnosed and treated. A diagnosis can now be performed with more than 90 percent accuracy, and if Alzheimer’s is diagnosed early, patients have the time to make informed decisions and plan for the future effectively.
While an early diagnosis is certainly essential, an accurate diagnosis is just as important. An estimated 600,000 Americans have been misdiagnosed as having dementia, but in actuality they have an Alzheimer’s sub-type. This sub-type manifests in such a way that patients still have a near normal memory, and this causes doctors to misdiagnose them as having a form of dementia since Alzheimer’s patients typically suffer from memory loss.
Based on this study, patients with irritable outbursts and behavioral issues are not precluded from having Alzheimer’s simply because they do not have memory loss. As such, it is essential to keep in mind that your loved ones may have an Alzheimer’s sub-type even if they do not demonstrate symptoms of memory loss.
Alleviating Memory Loss Symptoms with Medication
Although memory loss itself cannot be slowed or prevented with medication, you can alleviate the symptoms. The FDA has approved two types of drugs for these purposes: cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine. Only cholinesterase inhibitors are used in the early to moderate stages of Alzheimer’s, whereas memantine is used for moderate to severe Alzheimer’s.
In some severe cases, doctors will prescribe both at once. Delaying the worsening of symptoms makes medication worth it for many patients, although some side effect may be observed. Headaches, constipation, confusion, dizziness and nausea may result after using inhibitors or memantine, but delaying the effects of this cruel disease is worth it for most seniors.
Treatment Options for Behavioral Issues
For many Alzheimer’s patients and families of patients, it is the behavioral changes that are the most trying part of coping with Alzheimer’s. When initially treating behavioral symptoms and issues, avoid medication if you can. Instead, begin by taking steps to reinforce emotional comfort, or hire professionals or assisted living centers that are more equipped to do so. To this end, you may wish to rearrange or changing the patient’s environment to aid in this transition. Giving the patients adequate rest, consistently monitoring their comfort and avoiding confrontation are all great ways to treat behavioral issues without medication.
If all else fails, you may need to treat the issues with medication. However, it is essential to note that no drugs are approved by the FDA to treat behavioral symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s, though some medications have been determined to help behavioral outbursts.
As you might expect, behavioral issues stemming from Alzheimer’s become taxing on families, so an assisted living center is often the best way to provide proper care for seniors suffering from Alzheimer’s-induced irritability, anxiety or depression.
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