Alzheimer's disease

What is it?

Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia and accounts for up to 70% of all cases. It is a progressive, degenerative illness that affects the brain, resulting in impaired memory, thinking and behaviour. Once ability is lost, it can be rarely regained or relearned.

How do we know it's happening?

People with Alzheimer's disease usually show a range of symptoms and signs:

Memory loss: the most common early symptom is gradually declining short-term memory beginning with lapses which gradually deteriorate to persistent and frequent memory difficulties, especially of recent events. The names of people, places, and hospital appointments are, for example, often forgotten.

Difficulty in performing everyday tasks: finding it hard to complete everyday tasks, for example, knowing what order to put clothes on after taking a shower or the steps for preparing a meal. They may be slower in doing everyday tasks such as taking a long time to make a cup of tea.

Difficulties with language - speech and writing: struggling to find the right words for everyday objects and also find it difficult to follow a conversation. They may also forget what they were about to say mid conversation

Disorientation in time and place: getting lost in familiar places such as the street where they live. A person can forget where they are or how they got there and not know how to get back home. They can also get disoriented and confuse night and day.

Impaired judgement: dressing inappropriately for the weather, wearing for example, several layers of clothes on a warm day or very few clothes on a winter's day.

Misplacing things: putting things in unusual places such as keys in the microwave or a wallet in the fridge.

Changes in mood: experiencing mood swings, feeling sad, angry or scared and being frustrated by their increasing memory loss.

Changes in personality and behaviour: appearing different from their usual self, becoming suspicious, irritable and agitated especially in situations where memory problems are causing difficulties.

Loss of initiative: becoming passive, sitting in front of the television for hours without concentrating on the programme, sleeping more than usual or appearing to lose interest in hobbies.

What we offer

Specialists: medications are not the only option available. Whilst the range and availability of specialist services varies widely, the specialist and his team can help make a positive difference to managing dementia by guiding a person to the range of community support available through hospital, community mental health teams, memory specialist teams, social services and voluntary agencies. This is not only for the person with Alzheimer's disease but also for the family and carers.

Early diagnosis: memory assessment services in AWP aid the early detection and diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. The specialist memory team can signpost the different services available for people diagnosed with dementia, their families and carers. These include specialised dementia services, health and home support services.

AWP has an excellent team of consultant old age psychiatrists who diagnose Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. A consultant will also explain in detail the diagnosis and the help available for an individual and their family. The specialist memory team can help with early planning, which can make it much easier for a person with dementia, their family and carers to manage their financial and legal affairs.

There is currently no cure for Alzheimer's disease. There are medications which are available that may temporarily alleviate some symptoms or slow down their progression in some people. These medications may stabilise some of the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease for a limited period of 6 -18 months.

Inpatient services: there may be times when a person with Alzheimer's disease needs to come into a hospital bed for assessment and treatment. AWP offers inpatient services in its various sites in Bristol, Swindon, Trowbridge and Salisbury. The AWP inpatient team will make sure that there is good communication and continuity of care when the person is discharged home. AWP also works closely with care agencies and intermediate support teams who can make the transfer back home as smooth as possible.

Residential care: due to their increasing needs, some people with Alzheimer's disease may need to go into long term care in a residential or nursing home. AWP's inpatient team will work closely with the family, the care homes, social services, community services and GP services in making sure anyone with dementia is managed with dignity and respect.

Support for carers: looking after someone with Alzheimer's disease can be difficult. We can offer carers assessment and guide the carers to the various supports they can get in terms of short periods of respite.

Contact

It is important that where a person is concerned or worried about their memory, they make an appointment with their GP who may refer them to a specialist to make a formal diagnosis.

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