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Alzheimer's Disease: The Gradual Death

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Introduction

Alzheimer's Disease: The Gradual Death Over four million Americans have been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease (1). One of those is my grandfather. He has suffered from Alzheimer's for almost 8 years. I have watched my grandfather slowly decline and forget things such as where he lived, my name, and even how to talk. Many times I was upset and confused and often puzzled at the way he acted. I knew something was seriously wrong because he could never remember anything and often had tears in his eyes. I felt angry when he didn't remember who I was. Eventually, he could no longer put together a sentence that made sense and he relied on others for total care. We have been forced to place him in a nursing home, and watch him decline more rapidly. I would like to learn more about Alzheimer's so that I might be educated more about the disease and the current research taking place regarding the disease. Alzheimer's disease is a progressive disorder that attacks the brain and slowly kills brain cells. The disease causes severe changes to occur in the brain. The disease moves slowly and begins with mild memory problems that increasingly get worse until the brain begins to shut down vital functions. Alzheimer's disease affects a person's ability to remember, think, and use language correctly. The causes for Alzheimer's are not yet entirely clear and there is no known cure. Sadly, many think that the early signs of Alzheimer's are merely signs of normal aging; therefore, the individuals go untreated. (2) Progressive mental deterioration has been recognized for many years. However, it wasn't until 1906, when a German physician, Dr. Alois Alzheimer, identified the abnormal brain cells that caused the symptoms when he performed an autopsy on a woman that had died after suffering years of memory loss. When he dissected her brain, he discovered coiled deposits around the nerve cells, called neuritic plaques. ...read more.

Middle

A person may have memory lapses or forget little things, but aren't really noticeable. Stage 3: One of the earliest stages that Alzheimer's can be diagnosed. In this stage family members may notice some problems with the person's memory or concentration. This can be clinically tested and reviewed for diagnosis of Alzheimer's. Stage 4: This is considered an early stage of Alzheimer's disease. Usually clinical tests will show clear-cut results and should be able to diagnose easily. The person may forget current events and may not be able to manage finances or may forget personal history. Stage 5: This is considered mid-stage Alzheimer's disease. The person begins to forget how to do daily tasks and may need help. They may be confused with where they are or what day it is. But usually they don't require help with eating or going to the bathroom in this stage. Stage 6: This is considered a moderately severe mid-stage of Alzheimer's disease. Memory problems increasingly get worse and the person may also experience major personality changes. Usually during this stage, most lose a sense of their surroundings, but still recognize familiar faces. They need help getting dressed properly, otherwise they may small errors like putting their shoes on the wrong feet. At this stage, some may need help going to the bathroom as well. Stage 7: This is considered the late stage of Alzheimer's disease. This is when the person will lose the ability to respond to their environment, ability to speak, and even lose control of their movements. They may lose their capacity to speak, but sometimes phrases may be uttered perfectly clearly. The person needs help eating and going to the bathroom. Then eventually the person will lose the ability to walk without assistance, and reflexes become abnormal and swallowing becomes impossible. The symptoms continue to get worse until the brain cells die and the link between cells is lost. ...read more.

Conclusion

(15) In addition, scientists are gaining greater insight into the genetic factors contributing to Alzheimer's disease. Four genes have now been identified; three of these genes (located on chromosomes 1, 14, and 21) each contribute to early-onset Alzheimer's disease and one gene (located on chromosome 19) increases the risk of developing the disease later in life. Genetic risk factors alone, in most cases, are not enough to cause the disease, so other risk factors are involved and researchers are actively exploring them. (16) A great deal has been learned since the early part of this century concerning the nature of the plaques and tangles and the parts of the brain that are affected as Alzheimer's disease progresses. As the population continues to age, Alzheimer's and other forms of dementias will become even more prevalent and impact an even greater number of families. Medical research must continue to make progress to determine the cause of Alzheimer's as well as possible treatments to reduce the symptoms or even prevent the disease altogether. The gradual loss of one's memory, arguably the essence of a person, is one of the most distressing experiences for an individual and their family. We often take for granted one of the most important parts of our lives, the ability to remember. Memory is more than just an account of the past, it affects one's ability to function, think and ultimately survive. An Alzheimer patient's life gradually becomes reduced so that they need to rely on others to survive. This is a very difficult thing to endure and watch take place in a loved one. We must continue to do research in order to obtain the information needed to figure out the many mysteries of this disease. I know that my grandfather will die before any cures are created, but I do pray that they use the information obtained from my grandfather and his struggle with the disease, to help with further research so that others might not suffer the same struggles as he. ...read more.

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