At some point, most people have watched an older family member struggle with memory loss or other forms of dementia. As a result, people often incorrectly assume all people will succumb to similar issues as they approach old age.
Many also falsely believe all memory loss results from Alzheimer’s disease. While Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia, the Arizona Department of Health Services notes there are many potential causes for dementia, including anxiety, stress, depression, drug interactions, thyroid problems, certain vitamin deficiencies and excess use of alcohol and/or other drugs.
- Alzheimer’s disease is a serious health issue in Arizona and the United States. It accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases.
- Alzheimer’s symptoms grow progressively worse, but the rate at which the disease progresses varies. Most people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s live four to eight years after diagnosis but can live as long as 20 years, depending on other factors.
- In most people with Alzheimer’s symptoms first appear after age 60, but Alzheimer’s disease is not a natural part of aging. Many older people never show symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
- Typically, friends and family members provide care for patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. People in the final stages of the disease are bed-bound and require around-the-clock care.
- More than 15 million Americans, including over 400,000 Arizonans, provide unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Supporting caregivers is vital to improving the overall health of the family living with someone with Alzheimer’s disease.
- Over the next 10 years, Arizona is expected to experience an exponential increase in Alzheimer’s cases because of an aging population.
- Alzheimer’s disease cannot be cured or prevented, but an early diagnosis can help both the patient and caregivers who will have to help provide daily support.
- Scientists don’t fully understand what causes Alzheimer’s. In people with early-onset Alzheimer’s, a genetic mutation is usually the cause. Late-onset Alzheimer’s results from a complex series of brain changes that occur over decades.
- Many medications are available to treat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. The drugs can help maintain thinking, memory and communication skills and help with certain behavioral problems, but they cannot cure the underlying cause.
If you or a loved one is experiencing memory loss or is concerned about Alzheimer’s disease, there are 10 common warning signs and symptoms. If you notice any of these, please see a medical provider.
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life
- Challenges in planning or solving problems
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure
- Confusion with time or place (example: wandering and getting lost)
- Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
- New problems with words in speaking or writing
- Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
- Decreased or poor judgment
- Withdrawal from work or social activities
- Changes in mood and personality
More information about caregiver support is available at the Arizona Healthy Aging Website.
About Wayne Tormala
Wayne Tormala is the Chief of the Bureau of Tobacco and Chronic Disease for the Arizona Department of Health Services. Wayne leads a team that focuses on reducing chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, lung disease, cancer, diabetes and asthma. The bureau also provides resources for Arizona’s aging population.