Do you have a loved one with Alzheimer’s? We answer some common questions.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. In Australia about 50 to 70 per cent of those living with dementia have Alzheimer’s disease.
What is Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s disease causes the nerve cells in the brain, which are essential for language and physical movement, to weaken and die. These nerve cells can’t be repaired or replaced, so the damage cannot be reversed.
What are the symptoms of Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s disease usually starts with forgetfulness, problems with working things out and difficulty finding the right words. You may also notice changes in your loved one’s mood.
As the disease progresses, the memory loss becomes worse and people have difficulty learning new skills and information. You may notice your loved one says or does things that are out of character. They may also struggle with everyday tasks such as getting dressed, washing, cooking, travelling and handling money.
Disorientation is also common, and this can cause people with Alzheimer’s disease to lose their sense of time and place. For example, they may get dressed in the middle of the night, thinking that it is morning. New surroundings may be confusing and it could become more difficult for people to recognise family members and friends.
How is Alzheimer’s diagnosed?
There is currently no single test that can be used to diagnose Alzheimer’s.
It’s important to speak to your loved one’s doctor if you think they might have Alzheimer’s, as other conditions such as depression can produce similar symptoms.
Your loved one’s doctor will carry out a physical examination and review their medical history. If they are concerned that your loved one has dementia after their initial tests they may refer them to a specialist (neurologist, geriatrician or psychiatrist) for diagnosis. The specialist will carry out a number of tests and procedures such as:
- Cognitive tests to measure memory, language and concentration.
- Brain scans to investigate possible brain damage.
For more information on how to test for Alzheimer's click here.
Can Alzheimer’s be cured?
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There is a lot of global research on developing treatments to delay, cure and prevent Alzheimer’s.
Currently there is no cure for dementia, although some prescribed medications, such as cholinergic, may slow down the rate of decline for a number of months.