About Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s disease is an illness of the brain. It causes large numbers of nerve cells in the brain to die. This affects your ability to remember things and think clearly. Doctors don’t know what causes the disease. They do know that it usually begins after age 60, and nearly half of people age 85 and older may have Alzheimer’s disease. However, it is not a normal part of aging. The disease often starts slowly. In fact, some people don’t know they have Alzheimer’s disease, blaming their forgetfulness on old age. Over time, memory problems get much worse as the disease progresses. People with Alzheimer’s disease lose the ability to drive a car, cook a meal, or even read a newspaper. They may get lost easily and find even simple things confusing. Some people become worried, angry, or violent. At some point, people with Alzheimer’s disease may need someone to take care of all their needs (feeding, bathing, etc.) at home with a caregiver or in a nursing home.
Normal Forgetfulness vs. Memory Impairment
As we age, the process of recalling information slows down. It is normal to experience forgetfulness such as not being able to recall an acquaintance’s name or appointments, or not remembering what you wanted in the kitchen once you get there. Occasional memory problems may result from stress, distractions, grief, fatigue, poor vision or hearing, use of alcohol, an illness, or trying to remember too many details at once. Clinical depression also may cause poor concentration, sleep disturbance, or other symptoms that lead to forgetfulness in persons who do not have Alzheimer’s disease.
What is Dementia?
Dementia is the loss of intellectual functions (such as thinking, remembering and reasoning) of sufficient severity as to interfere with a person’s daily functioning. People with dementia experience short-term memory lapses and confusion that are more persistent, more severe, and more disabling than normal forgetting. These memory problems affect performance of everyday activities such as handling finances, doing household chores, and maintaining good hygiene habits.
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