Alzheimer's

By Rhonda Barragan

The Region of the Brain

“In advanced Alzheimer’s, the surface layer that covers the cerebrum, the largest part of the brain, withers and shrinks. This damage to the cortex plays havoc with the normal ability to plan ahead, recall, and concentrate (Alzheimer’s facts and figures, 2013).” About two thirds of Alzheimer’s patients show psychiatric symptoms, including agitation, irritability, apathy, and dysphoria (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014, p.306). Scientists are still not certain whether beta-amyloid plaque causes Alzheimer’s disease, or whether the irregular clusters in the brain result from the disease process. (Diseases and Conditions Alzheimer's disease, 2013).”

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The Functions

Alzheimer’s disease affects the hippocampus. This part of the brain plays an important role in memory. Alzheimer’s disease causes the hippocampus to shrivel, which harms the brain’s ability to create new memories (A primer on Alzheimer’s disease and the brain, 2013).” Individuals with a moderate-to-severe brain injury most typically experience problems in basic cognitive skills: sustaining attention, concentrating on tasks at hand, and remembering newly learned material. They may think slowly, speak slowly, and solve problems slowly.
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The Behavioral Changes

Brain changes that occur in Alzheimer's disease can affect the way you act and how you feel and the following symptoms may occur: depression, anxiety, social withdrawal, mood swings, distrust in others, irritability and aggressiveness, changes in sleeping habits, wandering, loss of inhibitions, delusions, such as believing something has been stolen (Diseases and Conditions Alzheimer's disease n.d.). Alzheimer's disease causes difficulty concentrating and thinking, especially about abstract concepts like numbers. It may be challenging to manage finances, balance checkbooks, and keep track of bills and pay them on time. These difficulties may progress to inability to recognize and deal with numbers (Diseases and Conditions Alzheimer's disease n.d.). People with Alzheimer's disease may lose their sense of what day it is, the season, where they are or even their current life circumstances (Diseases and Conditions Alzheimer's disease n.d.).

Treatment

Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, and its brain damaging progress can’t be stopped. However, certain treatments, such as behavioral therapy and medication, can help ease the symptoms of the disease. Some medications may help to ease symptoms of confusion and memory loss. These include cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine, which are sometimes used together.

Caretaker Questions

What treatments or programs are available? How effective are these treatments? Will medications help? What are the possible side effects? How will the disease likely progress over time? (Diseases and Conditions Alzheimer's disease n.d.). There's no specific test today that confirms Alzheimer's disease. A doctor will make a judgment about whether Alzheimer's is the most likely cause of a patient’s symptoms based on the information they provide and results of various tests that can help clarify the diagnosis (Diseases and Conditions Alzheimer's disease n.d.).

References


Alzheimer’s facts and figures (n.d.). Alzheimer’s Association. Retrieved November 21, 2013 from

http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_facts_and_figures.asp#quickFacts

A primer on Alzheimer’s disease and the brain. (n.d.). National Institute on Aging. Retrieved November 21, 2013 from

http://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/publication/2011-2012-alzheimers-disease-progress-report/primer-alzheimers-disease-and#.UoOtvfmsiSo

Brain tour: neuron forest. (n.d.). Alzheimer’s Association. Retrieved November 21, 2013 from

http://www.alz.org/braintour/neuron_forest.asp

Diseases and Conditions Alzheimer's disease. (n.d.). Retrieved October 26, 2015, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alzheimers-disease/basics/symptoms/con-20023871

Nolen-Hoeksema, S. (2014). Abnormal psychology (6th ed.). McGraw Hill Education. New York, NY.