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ComfortCare Homes President Doug Stark Answers Questions About Alzheimer's

Approximately 50 million people are living with some form of dementia worldwide, with new cases in the U.S occurring each minute, reports Maria Shriver, for the Today Show. Yet, despite increased awareness of Alzheimer’s and dementia, many aspects of the disease remain a mystery to those most affected by it—those suffering from dementia and their caregivers. Even a little knowledge about this disease can help ease a caregiver’s stress and give direction for choosing the next steps for their loved one.

Is Alzheimer’s hereditary?

While there is a form of familial Alzheimer’s, known as early onset familial Alzheimer’s disease, it is extremely rare, accounting for less than 5 percent of cases. Alzheimer’s affects close to 6 percent of people 65 years and older. People with a family history of dementia or Alzheimer’s face a higher risk of developing the disease, but only if they have particular risk genes already.

How long does it take Alzheimer’s to progress from initial symptoms to its final stages?

Doctors generally recognize three stages of Alzheimer’s, describing patients as being in the early, middle or late stages of the disease. A more detailed evaluation, called the Reisberg Scale, describes seven stages, or levels, of Alzheimer’s. At the first level, someone with Alzheimer’s can live a decade or more with no visible outward signs.

Progression and the rate of decline varies greatly by individual. It’s important to remember that Alzheimer’s doesn’t only affect memory, but also causes progressive changes in the brain, which in turn affect physical functions, eventually becoming life-threatening. It is usually sometime before this stage that families seek professional help in caring for their loved one. In the end, while the immediate cause may be attributed to an infection or other illness, the patient’s death can usually be traced to the physical deterioration that accompanied their Alzheimer’s.

What is the difference between memory loss due to aging and Alzheimer’s?

Forgetting where an item is placed, or momentarily lapsing on someone’s name can be a common result of normal aging. In some cases, what appears as concerning memory loss may be reversed if caused by treatable conditions such as depression, drug interaction or excess use of alcohol. A lapse in memory is not always disease related.

In those cases where memory loss is due to dementia or Alzheimer’s, it’s important to understand next steps and when to seek professional help. ComfortCare Homes recommends a full evaluation by a family doctor to determine current needs.

For more information, including a guide on the difference between Alzheimer’s and normal memory loss, please browse our website, or call to schedule a consultation.

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