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This National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, Regency Retirement Village of Birmingham is raising awareness of the disease and its symptoms.

November marks the beginning of Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. This annual, month-long movement aims to raise awareness of Alzheimer’s disease and its impact on patients and their loved ones. This condition has impacted countless individuals worldwide personally or by proxy.

With the condition affecting more than 6 million Americans and the majority of cases being in seniors age 75 or older, Regency Retirement Village of Birmingham has a vested interest in Alzheimer’s awareness in November and year-round. In the spirit of honoring Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, we’ve outlined what Alzheimer’s is and its symptoms below. There is great power in being informed, and the more we understand about Alzheimer’s the more likely we are to detect symptoms early and start treatment for ourselves or our loved ones.

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disorder that affects memory, thinking and the ability to perform everyday activities. The disease begins with short lapses in memory and eventually leads to more serious mental, physical, and behavioral issues. It is not a part of healthy aging, and there is no known cure for the disease yet.

In the brain, Alzheimer’s damages areas linked to memory, movement, thinking, and language. These brain areas are damaged by abnormal plaques and tangles in the brain, called amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary. Damage between brain cells can occur as well. As the condition causes more damage to the brain, symptoms become worse.

Scientists aren’t completely sure how Alzheimer’s starts, but many believe it is caused by the buildup of misfolded proteins between the cells in the brain. These proteins eventually cause damage to the surrounding brain tissue, affecting the patient’s thinking, memory, behavior and more.

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease

One of the main goals of Alzheimer’s Awareness Month is to educate the public about the symptoms and signs of the condition. Understanding how Alzheimer’s disease affects a person is crucial for early detection, which can significantly improve the patient’s prognosis and quality of life. The sooner Alzheimer’s disease is detected, the sooner a person can begin treatment to ease symptoms and maintain cognitive functioning as much as possible.

Mild Cognitive Impairment, or MCI, is a condition that often develops into Alzheimer’s Disease. MCI causes memory and cognition problems to a much lesser degree than Alzheimer’s. Individuals with MCI are still typically able to perform their daily activities. However, those with MCI are more at risk for Alzheimer’s disease and it is important to monitor symptoms. Monitoring symptoms under the guidance of a medical professional can help determine if symptoms are improving or progressing and can help doctors create a plan of care to address the condition.

Symptoms of Mild Cognitive Impairment

  • Losing things often
  • Forgetting about appointments or important events
  • Difficulty coming up with words

It should be noted that while some memory issues are normal for healthy aging individuals, repeated instances may signify mild cognitive impairment. Losing your glasses or forgetting to pay a bill from time to time is to be expected, but when these moments of forgetfulness become more frequent, it is crucial to see a doctor.

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease
With Alzheimer’s disease, the symptoms of MCI are much more pronounced and additional symptoms typically occur.

  • Losing things often
  • Forgetting about appointments or important events
  • Difficulty coming up with words
  • Repeating questions or stories over and over
  • Trouble having conversations
  • Trouble reading or writing
  • Difficulty handling payments and money
  • Difficulty with daily activities
  • Becoming lost in familiar places
  • Hallucinations, delusions and paranoia

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease will vary from person to person, so it is imperative to monitor any changes in symptoms over time. This will give doctors an understanding of the individual’s normal level of functioning which will help them determine the progression of symptoms.

Symptom Management and Treatment

While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, there are several prescription drugs available to help manage the disease’s symptoms or even treat the disease itself. In most cases, FDA-approved Alzheimer’s treatments work best for those in the early or middle stages of the disease.

Medicines like cholinesterase inhibitors are often prescribed for mild to moderate Alzheimer’s symptoms. They help control cognitive decline and can even help mitigate behavioral symptoms that arise from the condition. Additionally, there are immunotherapy treatments becoming available that target the amyloid plaques in the brain caused by Alzheimer’s disease. These methods are promising, because they reduce the size of the plaques and can potentially slow the progression of the disease. However, these medications are still being tested.

Other methods of symptom management include activities that encourage cognitive functioning. Puzzles, creative projects such as writing or painting, and group social activities can help activate memory and maintain current levels of cognition. At Regency Birmingham, our Memory Care staff organizes these types of activities for residents with dementia disorders or Alzheimer’s Disease to help reduce memory loss.

The Importance of Year-Round Alzheimer’s Awareness

Due to the sheer number of families affected by the disease each year, it is critical for awareness to continue past Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. While there is still no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, more treatments are showing positive effects and being approved for treatment. The more we understand about Alzheimer’s symptoms, the more likely we are to detect the disease early and seek treatments that can improve quality of life.

At Regency Retirement Village of Birmingham, we hold a year-round commitment to Alzheimer’s Awareness for our residents, their families, and the community we’ve created here. By increasing awareness of Alzheimer’s disease year-round, we can:

1. Encourage Early Detection:
Early diagnosis can significantly improve the quality of life for individuals with Alzheimer’s. Regular cognitive assessments and awareness initiatives can contribute to timely detection, leading to better care and support.

2. Provide Continuous Education:
Educating ourselves and others about Alzheimer’s fosters a compassionate and informed community. Share resources, organize workshops, and engage in discussions to increase understanding and reduce stigma associated with the disease.

3. Support Caregivers:
Caregivers play a vital role in the lives of individuals with Alzheimer’s. Offering support, resources, and respite care year-round can help caregivers manage the challenges they face and provide better care for their loved ones. Additionally, we can work with caregivers if and when they decide their loved one needs more specialized, supportive care in our community.

We hope this information has helped you understand what Alzheimer’s disease is and how it affects millions of people worldwide. Our goal in sharing this information is to raise awareness for those affected by the disease and their family members. The more we know about Alzheimer’s and other dementia disorders, the better we can manage symptoms and seek effective treatment options.

If you or a loved one have any questions regarding Alzheimer’s disease or our Memory Care facility, please contact us. We are dedicated to supporting families like yours through the aging process, and it is our mission to help families make the best care choices for their loved ones. Take an opportunity this National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month to share this blog or other informative resources on the disease so we can all be more empowered to take charge of our health journeys.

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