It’s not uncommon for an individual to suffer from episodes of forgetfulness, it happens everyday, in fact it is partly a good thing that we forget certain things because if we didn’t, our minds would be over filled with all the information we have ever retained. However the things we tend to forget are usually small and won’t affect our lives to drastically. For example, forgetting the name of a song you recently learned about or my favorite, when men forget to put the toilet seat down.
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But what would you do if your memory was so bad that you began to forget how complete simple everyday tasks, and couldn’t ever remember how to do so. Imagine waking up in the morning and not knowing or understanding where you are. Or on the other hand, imagine looking at one of your parents and they fail to recognize you one day.
Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disease in which damaged and dying brain cells cause mental deterioration over a period of time (Blackwell and Manar, 2015 p.125). The problem with alzheimer’s disease is that it is an irreversible disease that progresses over time and nearly anyone can get it! According to Kivipelto and Hakansson (2017), in the US, alone 32% of people over the age of 85 have been diagnosed with alzheimer’s and this is expected to increase. There is an estimated 50 million people with alzheimer’s disease and, By 2050 if no new treatments succeed in delaying the condition, more than 130 million may suffer with some form of the disease. About 60 to 70 percent of these patients will have Alzheimer’s dementia, and around 20 to 25 percent will be classified as suffering from the vascular form of the illness. (Kivipelto and Hakansson, 2017). That’s a scary thought to think about because this disease could affect, your parents, your spouse or more scarily yourself! I personally get to see my residents at work suffer from the disease which lead me to be more and more curious as to what it actually was. What causes Alzheimer’s, how does someone take care of one with the disease and what does one with this disease have to deal with in terms of behavior are all questions that came to mind after first hearing about the disease.
We may never know why some people get alzheimer’s and other people do not but according to Bennett (2016), and although there is no known cause, genetics come into play and some people are just unfortunate to inherit high-risk genes associated with the disease. This disease deteriorates the brain so much that even the size of the brain shrinks according to Blackwell and Manar, (2015). This is because with alzheimer’s disease follows brain cell death. The cause of this cell death is greatly explained as follows: Today we know that these classic features are accumulations of malfunctioning proteins”mostly misfolded fragments of beta-amyloid in the plaques and abnormal tau in the tangles (Bennett, 2016) It is normal for any brain that has gone through the natural process of life through late adulthood to exhibit some plaque and/or tangles in the brain, however a brain diagnosed with alzheimer’s has relatively more. According to research you are more likely to get alzheimer’s if you haveadvanced age, trauma such as head injury, and gene mutations (Blackwell and Manar, 2015 p.127). There is no known treatment to cure or prevent the progression however researchers have been trying and trying for years. Not only are there over 100 ongoing clinical trials to create a drug for alzheimer’s, but also More than 200 experimental drugs intended to treat it have failed during the past 30 years. (Kivipelto and Hakansson, 2017). Throughout the years research has come up with some theories that have been proven to help prevent the onset of alzheimer’s. For example maintaining good cardiovascular health, a well-balanced diet, the achievement of higher education levels and having an active social life all diminish the risk of getting the disease as stated by Kivipelto and Hakansson, (2017). Research suggests that a good specific diet that could dramatically lower the risk of developing alzheimer’s is the MIND diet which is known to be rich in berries, vegetables, whole grains and nuts (Bennett, 2016).
In the brief time of my CNA career I watched a very close resident of mine decline drastically and eventually die of Alzheimer’s. When I first met her, she came to know and remember who I was very quickly but closer to the time of her passing, it was clear that she did not remember my name and wasn’t ever going to. In her final stages, she seemed like an entirely different person. After doing research I learned that some of the behaviors and symptoms accompanied with this disease include inattention to personal hygiene, forgetfulness, lack of concentration and impaired judgment with later symptoms being the inability to read, walk, speak, take care of themselves and remember their loved ones (Blackwell and Manar, 2015 p.125). Learning this helped me understand why my dear friend would often not make any sense when she was talking and do stuff out of the ordinary like walk around in the middle of the night collecting things. I would see her agitated, wandering and repeating the things she did. Her behaviors were much worse when I worked the evening shift, which I came to learn was associated with sundowning, a common side effect many Alzheimer’s victims have to deal with, like Kalb, Wingert, Grossman, Weingarten, and Raymond, (2000) stated, For some unknown reason, people with Alzheimer’s can become increasingly agitated at the end of the day. I was taken by surprise to see how often these people become combative also. We may just be providing help to this person, but in the eyes of someone who has the disease they may not understand what you are doing or think you are hurting them, so they proceed to being combative to protect themselves. Hitting, scratching, biting, and kicking are all very common acts that someone with Alzheimer’s disease may display.
Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s is a horrific burden for most people–stressful and enormously expensive, with few services covered by insurance (Kalb, Wingert, Grossman, Weingarten, and Raymond, 2000) . According to Kalb, Wingert, Grossman, Weingarten, and Raymond, (2000), 70 percent of people with alzheimer’s live at home and of every every for caregivers, three of them are women. These caregivers are ripped apart both emotionally by watching their loved ones deteriorate and suffer, but also financially as, $174,000 The average cost of caring for a person with Alzheimer’s throughout the course of the disease (Kalb, Wingert, Grossman, Weingarten, and Raymond, 2000). This often brings depression as studies show that one third these caregivers suffer from serious depression Kalb, Wingert, Grossman, Weingarten, and Raymond, (2000).
Since the other 30 percent of alzheimer’s patients reside in nursing homes like the one I work at, I decided to turn to my nurses at my job who had more experience for answers. A particular nurse that had been working with alzheimer’s patients for nearly 25 years told me that caring for someone with Alzheimer’s is very difficult and every person’s case is different. If you don’t have patience you will not be able to take care of that person. You might have to answer the same question 100 times or more because within seconds of the conversation they have already forgot the question you asked or even asking the question. When caring for someone the with disease you might have to help them get dressed or dress them completely and feed them. If they reach the later stages of Alzheimer’s they may become totally dependent on others and for some families they are just not able to take care of another human being so they resort to nursing homes and other care facilities. Caring for those in that kind of setting requires them to be locked inside of the unit because it is very dangerous for them to go out on their own into the outside world yet that is the goal for many of them who are trying to return to a place more comfortable to them. Something she told me that I found fascinating was that when she works with them she has to get into their world. In their brain they may think that they are in a different time period in their lives and be confused because they are somewhere other than where they are thinking. To successfully help that person you have to go along with what they are saying as you try and redirect them so that you don’t upset them and make the situation worse. More attempts to enhance the care for alzheimer’s patients as, Researchers are also experimenting with ways to calm residents’ fiddling, pacing and outbursts, using everything from aromatherapy to aquariums (Kalb, Wingert, Grossman, Weingarten, and Raymond, 2000). In a recent study, simple one-on-one interactions helped reduce half the disruptive verbal outbursts in a nursing home. Nursing homes are also making advancements such as creating smaller, homier setting for the residents equipped with kitchens and laundry rooms to engage those who have lost the capacity to do other things on their own as well as keep them busy. Just last week my facility switched out all of our overhead lights for much brighter lights which corresponds with the research that, Specialists are calling for lots of light to eliminate frightening shadows and help reduce depression, which is also widespread in the Alzheimer’s population. Light is especially important in the late afternoon and early evening, when a phenomenon known as sundowning kicks in. (Kalb, Wingert, Grossman, Weingarten, and Raymond, 2000).
Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease that can be compared to, losing pages from a chronological photo album of your life from back to front”with childhood memories the last to go (Bennett, 2016). There are many different foundations such as the Walk to End Alzheimer’s to help raise money for the research of this disease as well as caring for those with it. I am excited to be able to better help my residents and expand my understanding about a disease that is so common in the United States especially since baby boomers are reaching late adulthood. It hurts my heart to know that millions of people have to suffer from this disease, however now knowing the signs helps me to be less fearful for the future because I can better handle a situation if I or a loved one ever develops the disease. I encourage everyone else to become more knowledgeable of the signs since the population of those who have it is continuously increasing and it does not seem to be going away anytime soon. With this new information we should all take measures to live a healthy lifestyle and hopefully avoid getting alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s Disease. (2015). In A. H. Blackwell & E. Manar (Eds.), UXL Encyclopedia of Science (3rd ed., Vol. 1, pp. 125-128). Farmington Hills, MI: UXL. Retrieved from https://frccwc.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://go.galegroup.com.frccwc.idm.oclc.org/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=west59484&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CCX3618300040&asid=907cac0de484e31a17916394e5d8bd85
Bennett, D. A. (2016). BANKING AGAINST ALZHEIMER’S. (cover story). Scientific American Mind, 27(4), 28-37.
Kalb, C., Wingert, P., Grossman, K. N., Weingarten, T., & Raymond, J. (2000). Coping With the Darkness. (cover story). Newsweek, 135(5), 52.
Kivipelto M, Hkansson K. A RARE SUCCESS AGAINST ALZHEIMER’S. (cover story). Scientific American [serial online]. April 2017;316(4):32-37. Available from: Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection, Ipswich, MA. Accessed April 28, 2017.
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