Alzheimer's Disease

Also known as AD this form of dementia is most common in older people and can seriously affect a person’s ability to perform everyday tasks.

The onset of the illness starts slowly and, at first, people may have difficulty remembering names or recent events in their lives. Symptoms become worse over time and sufferers may not recognize their loved ones, forget how to look after themselves or have difficulty in communicating. Then, they can sometimes become aggressive and need total care, which can put great stress on the family.

AD normally occurs after the age of 60 and the risk is higher in the elderly, especially if it runs in the family. Lifestyle has proven to also be a factor in the risk of developing AD. There is no known cure for the disease but certain drugs may alleviate the symptoms for a while.

Diagnosis

The earlier that AD is diagnosed, the more effective the drug treatments are in alleviating the symptoms or slowing down the progression. An early diagnosis also provides the benefit of being able to plan more effectively for future treatment, advice, and support for both patient and loved ones.

A GP will perform medical tests (including a blood test and a full physical examination) to eliminate any other causes which present similar symptoms. The GP may call upon a specialist to aid them in diagnosis. The specialist may be an old-age psychiatrist, a neurologist, a physician in geriatric medicine or a general psychiatrist. Their memory skills will be assessed by the specialist and brain scans may be carried out in order to gain clues about changes in the brain.

Treatment

There is currently no cure for Alzheimer's disease. However, drug treatments are available that can temporarily alleviate some symptoms or slow down their progression in some people. There are also Memory Cafés being organised nationwide with the aim of keeping people with AD and other forms of dementia socially and mentally active.

Information from The Alzheimer's Society.

Mental Health Foundation
Mental Health Foundation
The Royal College Of Psychiatrists