June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month. Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia, a disease that attacks the brain and it is defined as a progressive mental deterioration that can occur in middle or old age due to generalized degeneration of the brain. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia. It is a progressive disease, symptoms gradually worsen over the years. In its early stages, memory loss is mild, but late-stage dementiacan affect an individual’s ability to communicate and respond to his or her environment. Early-onset Alzheimer’s occurs between ages 30 and mid-60srepresenting less than 10% of people with Alzheimer’s. Research suggest there are changes in the brain that may begin at least a decade before memory or other cognitive problems appear. Even though people may seem to be symptom free, there are toxic changes taking place in the brain.
There are an estimated 47 million people worldwide and 5.5 million Americans of all ages living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias, and without a change, this number is expected to grow to 76 million by 2030. Some of the signs of dementia are:
- Challenges in planning or solving problems
- Confusion with time or place
- Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life
These are common signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s and other dementias, but remember each person is different. Only a doctor can diagnosis someone with Alzheimer’s or other dementias. A strong support network including support groups that allow caregivers to express concerns, share experiences, receive emotional support, find respite care, and have good coping skills are ways caregivers handle and relieve stress as they navigate with their loved ones on this journey.