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What you need to know about Alzheimer’s disease

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What you need to know about Alzheimer’s disease

To date, 125,000 Quebecers have Alzheimer’s disease or a similar disorder. This neurodegenerative disease affects not only those who have it, but also their family and friends. If you’re taking care of someone with Alzheimer’s disease, you likely have a lot of questions, which is perfectly normal. This overview will help you better understand the disease.

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What should I know about Alzheimer's disease?

In Canada, most people suffering from a neurocognitive disorder have Alzheimer’s disease. This disease is not a normal part of aging. It is progressive and irreversible. Here are the main symptoms.

Symptom

How it manifests

Memory loss

Forgetting recent events, repeating oneself, frequently misplacing or losing objects

Difficulty with day-to-day tasks

Being disorganized in carrying out tasks (e.g., having trouble managing medication or forgetting how to use the microwave oven)

Problems with language

Having trouble finding words or getting words mixed up

Confused sense of time and place

Mixing up times of day, not knowing what month it is, getting lost while driving in familiar places

Poor or impaired judgment

Taking risks, leaving the house without the appropriate clothing on a cold day, trusting strangers with money

Problems with abstract thinking

Having trouble understanding complex instructions or interpreting specific situations, having difficulty managing finances

Changes in personality

Becoming anxious or irritable

Loss of initiative

Being passive, needing encouragement to take part in activities

If you or a loved one is showing some of these symptoms, it isn’t necessarily Alzheimer’s disease. Visit the website of the Federation of Quebec Alzheimer Societies for more information about the disease, or discuss your concerns with your doctor.

Risk factors

The exact cause of Alzheimer’s disease remains unknown. However, certain risk factors have been identified, the main one being advanced age. Other factors such as sex (female), genes and family history, hypertension, diabetes and smoking are also described in the literature.

Progression

In over 90% of cases, the disease appears after the age of 65. As it progresses, the symptoms become worse until the person experiences a significant loss of independence and needs help to carry out most or all daily activities, including communicating and walking. It is impossible to predict the speed of progression of Alzheimer’s disease. However, the later the disease emerges, the more slowly it tends to progress.

You may have heard of the Reisberg Scale. Also known as the Global Deterioration Scale, it divides Alzheimer’s disease into seven stages of ability. The website of the Alzheimer Society of Canada describes these stages of the disease.

Treatment 

There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Some medications help to lessen or temporarily stabilize the symptoms, but the progression of the disease is inevitable.

Whatever the stage of the disease, non-pharmacological treatments help to optimize the person’s day-to-day functioning and control cognitive problems and challenging behaviours. Health care professionals can offer support and guidance on how to assist a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease.

For more information, call Caregiver Support at 1 855 852-7784. Our professional counselors are on hand to listen, provide information and direct you to resources and services in your area.

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