Impacts of Alzheimer’s Disease

Thesis Statement

The society at large along with government agencies should work together to look for mitigation measures to address the severe impacts of Alzheimer ’s disease, because lack of proper actions may lead to significant effects such as financial constraints and emotional stress to the patients and care providers.

Alzheimer ’s disease has severe and significant impacts to the society particularly to the aged persons along with their care providers in the form of financial needs and emotional support, which may be substantially required to address the effects of the sickness.

Introduction

Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is a medical condition that results in the human brain experiencing a variety of abnormal changes that affects mental abilities, such as memory. This is not a typical disease found in all geriatrics, but a disease like any other. The first noticeable signs and symptoms include loss of memory because it is highly associated with dementia in seniors. In the final stages of AD, a patient loses the ability to make judgement, decisions, reason correctly, and other personal skills that might necessitate the need for a caregiver (Bauer, 2014). In other cases, people with AD may find it difficult to maintain behavioral and personality. The disease is also challenging both seniors along with individuals willing to offer proper care, due financial issues. The society at large along with government agencies should work together to look for mitigation measures to address the severe impacts of Alzheimer ’s disease, because lack of proper actions may lead to significant effects such as financial constraints and emotional stress to the patients along with their care providers.

Alzheimer’s Disease

AD is a progressively and deteriorative chronic condition that affects the brain. It is also the leading cause of dementia. Dementia is a combination of symptoms such as language, memory, and cognition problems caused by a number of factors. Such problems occur due to damaged brain cells in the core parts of the human brain that is responsible for proper cognitive function. Similarly, AD develops after a damage to the brain cells of other parts, such as those that enable human being function normally like swallowing or walking (Alzheimer’s Association, 2016). The ailment recovers during the last stages bedridden, requiring full-time care and support due to its fatal conditions. Ongoing research about AD has significantly helped on the causes and variety of care-giving interventions. However, there are still gaps regarding the exact biological alterations that cause AD, reasons why it has a higher progression rate in some people, more risk factors, and preventive measures. The global prevalence of dementia is as high as twenty four million people, and it is anticipated that the disease will quadruple by the year 2050 (Reitz & Mayeux, 2014)   

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease

Sometimes, there are subtle and minimal distinctions between symptoms of AD and normal cognitive changes often witnessed in geriatric patients. Each person’s biological process differs. In that regard, Alzheimer’s signs and symptoms express distinctively among individuals. The most apparent symptom that initially signify dementia of Alzheimer’s is gradual inability to recall information (Alzheimer’s Association, 2017). The pathophysiology explanation is that the brain cells involved in creating new memories in the brain are among the first to be destroyed. As the destruction of cells in the brain continue, patients may experience other problems comprising of neurological symptoms like delusions, lack of sleep, and agitation. However, the overall rate of progression from one phase of the symptoms to another differs among individuals, but the stages are characterized by common symptoms. As Alzheimer’s continue to affect a senior, functional and cognitive abilities may gradually decline, and with advancement, they require help to carry out the most basic tasks such as eating. At this stage, the role of caregivers is critical because patients require continuous support. Further, du to difficulties in moving, a spectrum of infections such as pneumonia which affects the lungs and can eventually cause death. AD may also damage the brain cells associated with swallowing, leading to dehydration and malnutrition of an already ill senior patient (Liu-Seifert, 2015).

Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease

As previously stated, there is still a paucity in both the research and understanding of the biological process of AD infection, which makes it difficult to develop a test. Instead, doctors employ various tools and approaches along with professionals such as geriatricians, nurses, and neurologists to help diagnosis in diagnosis process. For instance, the physician may conduct neurologic and physical tests to ascertain the cognitive functioning of an individual. Further, the physician may carry out brain imaging and various blood tests to help eliminate other possible causes of dementia like vitamin deficiency and tumors. Besides, the doctor may enquire from a caregiver on any changes regarding to patient behavior and thinking skills. Gathering family medical history regarding cognitive, psychiatric, and behavioral changes from an individual may also help in determining whether they have disease (Aggarwal & Bennett, 2015). The overall process of Alzheimer’s diagnosis needs comprehensive and careful evaluation from all parties concerned to make medical decisions. Irrespective of the fact that diagnosis of dementia in geriatric patients is possible, similar approaches do not apply in determining whether Alzheimer’s is the cause.in that view, may take a while for a physician to affirm the presence of AD.  

The Role of Caregivers for Alzheimer’s Patients

Caregiving comprises of monitoring and assisting patients suffering from a particular medical condition, who cannot carry execute their operations. Therefore, the required care may be in form of legal, emotional, financial, and medical, among others. Patients who need personal care on a daily basis may need help with activities such as administering drugs, housekeeping, and financial help. In serious conditions such as Alzheimer’s, caregiving is a critical part of the management process and overall well-being, typically when it results into other diseases like dementia

Caregivers also have a significant role to the patents. They are expected to identify all the patient requirements. Notably, AD caregivers on geriatric patients overestimate both their mental and physical capabilities, mainly because they do not have enough knowledge on the precise needs of the seniors under their care. However, simple instructions and direction may be complicated for these patients to follow due to memory loss. As a result, caregiver geriatric s along with patients may experience depression, anger, or frustration when they realize that following instructions is a problem. A comprehensive recognition of these needs may go a long way in preventing such outcomes for both the seniors and caregivers (Central-health-line, 2017). Moreover, people with terminal illnesses, especially in old age, possess the rights to die with dignity as well as relief from chronic pain. It is the role of caregivers to understand such rights and requirements to be able to offer the right care and experience for seniors with AD. Physicians and professional caregivers have an essential role to play in ensuring that other care providers such as friends and family members need to have knowledge of certain requirements for the well-being of seniors with AD in the society.

Conversely, it is a caregiver’s role to establish and maintain a good and long-lasting relationship with the physician in charge of offering primary care to ensure professional support. Obtaining comprehensive medical evaluations now and then to eliminate any conditions that are treatable and can cause further damage to a geriatric patient is important, thus the need for constant contact with primary care professionals (Central-health-line, 2017). Additionally, caregivers should ensure that seniors with possible Alzheimer’s obtain accurate diagnosis, to help start the process of educating and preparing them while planning the required resources applicable. Alzheimer’s that has caused irreversible dementia and other diseases need special care that is bound to increase as the disease advances to others phases. Therefore, putting into use the available resources, as well as acquiring adequate enlightenment enables caregivers to better handle senior patients with Alzheimer’s. 

On the other hand, primary caregivers of geriatrics with AD are immediate family members providing the required support at home. This is a rewarding and enriching experience for both of the parties due to presence of other family members. However, the Committee on Family Caregiving for Older Adults states that offering care for senior patients with conditions affecting mental health is more daunting and stressful compared to those with physical disabilities. Care providers are therefore urged to support those challenged with the ailment in all the required forms such as finances.

Notably, assistance and support are crucial throughout the period of providing care to seniors with AD. They will require to take a break from all the demands of caregiving. During this time, caregivers can seek help from family members and friends. Moreover, there are other institutions and seniors’ living facilities in Canada that offer respite services for a considerable fee, such as the Weston Gardens Retirement Residence (Central-health-line, 2017). However, caregiving differs from one individual to another, and whether it is administered from a living residence or at home, the most important aspect of the overall experience is the quality of care, which highly depends on the needs of senior patients as well as available resources.

Impacts of Alzheimer’s on seniors

Due to the age factor of Alzheimer’s, most seniors suffer from the disease along with associated conditions such as dementia as they advance in their lives (Snyder et al., 2015). Therefore, it is essential for seniors to have an understanding of the effect that AD might have on their life for better preparation. Most of these impacts affect the Quality of Life, from contracting related conditions to initially living in denial and feeling of embarrassed.

According to the World Health Organization (2017), quality of life is a person’s view of their life’s position in terms of values and cultural systems regarding their concerns, standards, expectations and overall objectives. The description is made up of a variety of domains that are important to understand in the discussion of how Alzheimer’s on geriatric patients. These aspects include spiritual beliefs, environment feature, social relationships, levels of independence, psychological, and physical state. There is a decrease in the quality of life from the onset and positive diagnosis (Inouye et al., 2010). Symptoms and outcomes of Alzheimer’s that puts patients unable to take care of themselves, to a point of requesting for support, qualifies to be one of the reasons for these findings.

Development of related medical conditions is also one of the disease impacts to the human body. Due to the pathophysiology of AD, the old of similar age are likely to contract other infections that put their overall health at risk. The majority of geriatrics with Alzheimer’s die due to a combination of symptoms and complications from related conditions. For instance, Alzheimer’s-related lung infection or pneumonia is among the top causes of death for geriatrics with the disease because the inability to swallow caused by AD results in food particles passing to the windpipe and eventually in the lungs (Alzheimer’s Association, 2017). One known cause for dementia among old people is Alzheimer’s due to the increase in damage of the brain cells.

Additionally, some studies have found an association between seizures and geriatric patients with Alzheimer’s-related dementia. Mendez and Lim (2013) affirm that epileptic seizures occur in patients with dementia at a higher prevalence than among healthy elderly individuals. While the occurrence of these seizures may vary among patients and other factors such as the duration since diagnosis, they can lead to other medical complications, especially in seniors. Moreover, the presence of dependencies such as cognitive issues, which is common with Alzheimer’s geriatric patients are likely to impede the diagnosis of epileptic seizures making it difficult to manage. In such cases, physicians are also likely to mistake the manifestation of epileptic seizures in older patients with related dementia or other medical conditions (Mendez & Lim, 2013). As such, age is a major factor of drug interactions, and using antiepileptic drugs may have adverse effects on their health and the overall pharmacokinetic of Alzheimer’s medication. 

The evident occurrence of epileptic seizures in geriatric patients with Alzheimer’s consequently causes falls, fractures, and other injuries. Seizures cause a momentarily loss of control from the brain throughout the body, making them a risk factor of falls among seniors with dementia. Conversely, some studies report a correlational relationship between elderly patients with seizures and an increase in cases of hospitalization (Snyder, 2014). This could be because of the severity of injuries caused by falls, which has a significant financial impact on patients. Another concern regarding Alzheimer’s on geriatrics is the occurrence of bed sores when there is inadequate care from those responsible. Patients without an option of receiving care from friends or family also have to incur financial losses of finding senior’s living with those facilities that offer such care. In the contribution on the effects of AD amongst the elderly, variety of complications such as delirium and confusion after undergoing anesthesia during surgery may emanate (Papon et al., 2010). 

Impacts of Alzheimer’s on Caregivers

Caregivers are an active part of the lives of seniors living with Alzheimer’s. In that view, possible impacts that they may encounter includes emotional, financial, psychological and physical challenges. Also, unpaid caregivers who include family members and friends from the largest percentage of care providers for geriatrics in Canada may be one of the impacts. Providing care for elderly patients with Alzheimer’s-related complications such as dementia may prove to be difficult for individuals, mainly friends and family members. 

Taking care of elderly patients with Alzheimer’s affects the social well-being and emotional health of caregivers. Memories and shared experiences that patients and caregivers may have previously shared may be lost due to mental complications, which equally affects the emotional well-being of care providers (Alzheimer’s Association, 2017). While there is an aspect of positivity among caregivers regarding helping elderly patients like strengthened family bonds, there is an evident presence of stress and other psychological problems when offering care. For example, people providing care for geriatric patients with Alzheimer’s that has progressed to causing dementia are likely to experience higher levels of emotional impacts as compared to those without. Depression as a psychological disorder affects most caregivers due to associated frustrations and increases as AD progresses to have severe cognitive effects. Approximately 30-40 percent of family caregivers of people with dementia suffer from depression, compared with 5-17 percent of non-caregivers of similar ages (Alzheimer’s Association, 2017).

Additionally, it is common to witness caregivers whom demands of offering care to seniors causing deterioration of their own physical health. Evidence from such studies indicates that the combination of psychological issues increases their vulnerability to diseases that impact physical health (Fonareva & Oken 2014). Fatigue may be experienced due to unstable sleep patterns and disturbance, because AD patients with require constant monitoring and eventual full-time care even at night. Stress experienced by most caregivers can also result in physiological changes, increasing the likelihood of developing chronic diseases. Caregivers are also likely to develop risks of kidney dysfunctionalities and cardiovascular complication (Roepke, 2012) 

Individual concerned with AD patients get affected in their matrimonial life. They do not get adequate time for their families due to irreversible shifts for the provision of care required. The scenario influences the roles and responsibilities that the family requires. There are evident negative sexual and interpersonal consequences of AD on spouses who serve as primary caregivers. Further, caregivers often experience a strain on their employment, especially as Alzheimer’s progress in geriatric patients. Most caregivers who are previously employed during the diagnosis and initial stages of Alzheimer’s in seniors, quit or acquire early retirement to provide full-time care to these patients (Inouye, 2016). 

In summary, Alzheimer’s in seniors does not only affect patients, but also their caregivers. Geriatrics with AD are likely to develop many health complications that are related to the disease such as dementia which occurs in a larger percentage of Alzheimer’s patients. Other impacts include a significant decline in the overall quality of life due to unexpected changes in cognitive and physical body functionalities. Caregivers also experience psychological complications along with physical health, financial constraints and employment issues while taking care of seniors with Alzheimer’s in the society. 

References

Alzheimer’s Association. (2016). 2016 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures: Includes a Special Report on the Personal Financial Impact of Alzheimer on Families. Alzheimer’s Association.

Alzheimer’s Association. (2017). 2017 Alzheimer’s disease facts and figures. Alzheimer’s & Dementia.

Bauer, A., Matusch, A., Bartsch, C., Bührle, C. P., Woopen, C., Lenartz, D., … & Kuhn, J. (2014). Deep brain stimulation of the nucleus basalis of Meynert in Alzheimer’s dementia. Molecular psychiatry20(3), 353.

Centralhealthline. (2017). Weston Gardens Retirement Residence. Retrieved from http://www.centralhealthline.ca/displayService.aspx?id=142698  Accessed on 2018, 6th March.

Fonareva I., Oken, B.S. (2014) Physiological and functional consequences of caregiving for relatives with dementia. Int Psychogeriatr 26(5) 725-47.

Inouye, K., Pedrazzani, E. S., Pavarini, S. C. I., & Toyoda, C. Y. (2016). Quality of life of elderly with Alzheimer’s disease: a comparative study between the patient s and the caregiver s report. Revista latino-americana de enfermagem, 18(1), 26-32.

Liu-Seifert, H., Siemers, E., Sundell, K., Price, K., Han, B., Selzler, K., … & Mohs, R. (2015). Cognitive and functional decline and their relationship in patients with mild Alzheimer’s dementia. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease43(3), 949-955.

Mendez, M. F., & Lim, G. T. (2013). Seizures in elderly patients with dementia. Drugs & aging, 20(11), 791-803.

Papon, M. A., Whittington, R. A., El Khoury, N., & Planel, E. (2015). Alzheimer’s disease and anesthesia. Frontiers in neuroscience, 4, 272.

Snyder, H. M., Corriveau, R. A., Craft, S., Faber, J. E., Greenberg, S. M., Knopman, D… & Schneider, J. A. (2015). Vascular contributions to cognitive impairment and dementia including Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s & Dementia11(6), 710-717.

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