Alzheimer’s: The Basics

13.Apr.2011by Karen in Health· 1 comment

Alzheimer’s Disease has probably affected someone in your circle of family or friends. Thanks to an excellent workshop by Kellie Butsack on the basics, we learned the truth and how to respond to it as she shared about of Memory Loss, Dementia & Alzheimer’s Disease.

Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging

AD is a disease. It is not a normal part of aging. With typical changes in aging, people may forget but the can still recall the information. With problematic changes they will not. Problematic changes may include: Memory changes disrupt daily life, challenges in planning and solution, difficulty completing normal tasks, confusion with time or place, trouble with visual images and spatial relationships, new problems with words in speaking and writing, misplacing things and losing ability to retrace steps, decreased or poor judgment, withdrawal from work or social activities, changes in mood and personality.

Alzheimer’s worsens over time

The greatest risk factor for Alzheimer’s is aging. Most common form is late-onset AD only occurs in people over 65. At 65 1 in 8 and doubles every 5 years so at 85 affects 1 in 2. Added to this, baby boomers, the largest population are turning 65. More research is needed for this disease.

Alzheimer’s has no current cure, but treatments for symptoms are available and research continues.

Dementia is the umbrella word for the loss of brain function.  AD is the most common form accounting for 70% of all dementia.  It is a slow progressing, gradually gets worse. People can live 8-20 years after diagnosis if they are healthy. Often the patience will succumb to something else but can die from AD when it progresses to the brain stem. AD is the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S. according  to CDC.

  • Heart disease: 616,067
  • Cancer: 562,875
  • Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 135,952
  • Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 127,924
  • Accidents (unintentional injuries): 123,706
  • Alzheimer’s disease: 74,632

Take Action

Get help

Less than 15% of AD has a genetic cause factor. If you or a loved one have symptoms that concern you, see a doctor. In preparing for a doctor’s visit: keep a symptom log, list current and previous health problems, bring all medications (prescription, over the counter, vitamins, herbal supplements, etc.). Emotions run high and people vary between denial and acceptance. The key is getting help, the earlier the better.

Plan early

It is important to have a discussion regarding health issues early enough with parents so they can be part of the decisions that need to be made. Legal documents need to be put in place while they still have the cognitive ability. Too often decisions are delayed until a crisis. Then the adult child is left to make decision’s unsure of the parents’ wishes and can wrestle with feelings of guilt.

Medications to treat symptoms

There are drugs to treat the symptoms of AD. They do not alter, cure, or stop the disease. They can help to keep the person at their current level of function longer. They will not get better.

Medically Impaired Driver Law in PA

The question is often asked about the issue of driving. If you are in contact with your parents doctor you can ask their assistance and remind them that Pennsylvania requires doctors to report to PennDOT any of their patients whose driving skills may be affected by a medically related condition. The doctor has a responsibility to remove medically unsafe drivers. This is found in Section 1518 of the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code all doctors must report to PennDOT within 10 days, in writing, the full name, address, and date of birth of any patient 15 years of age or older, who has been diagnosed as having a condition that could impair his or her ability to safely operate a motor vehicle.

Programs and Services

If you have a family member with Alzheimer’s, the Alzheimer’s Association is an organization with many resources to assist you including:

Web site

Their website offers lots of helpful information, including an overview of the disease. There you will find details on the following:

  • What is Alzheimer’s
  • Brain Tour
  • Diagnosis
  • Stages
  • Treatments
  • Subscribe to Alzheimer’s e-news

Helpline – 24/365

Contact Center/Helpline 800-272-3900 is available everyday even holidays 24 hours a day, all the time for any and every question and need. Don’t hesitate to call them.

Care Consultation

Services available by telephone, e-mail or in person; Meetings – worships, seminar, conference and support groups.

Recommended Books

Alzheimer’s Playbook

by Coach Frank Broyles, University of Arkansas, Razorback Athletic Director whose wife Barbara had Alzheimers.

Simple and short, this is not a medical book but a practical guide for caregivers. As one person described it “a sort of step by step survival book for those families in need.”

Offfered free by calling the Alzheimer’s Association 215-561-2919.

The 36-Hour Day, 4th edition

by Nancy L. Mace and Peter V. Rabins

Long Title – A Family Guide to Caring for People with Alzheimer Disease, Other Dementias, and Memory Loss in Later Life. Known as The Bible of Alzheimer’s. First published in 1981.

Detailed and comprehensive but written for the lay person. Aimed particularly to the care giver and to help the family copy with this disease.


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Marcy 26.Jul.2011 at 12:57 pm

Very nice work Karen. I appreciate all you do to help people who desire to do their best in caring for their parents as they age, having health problems.


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