Understanding Alzheimer’s: Warning signs and support

As our population ages, the number of adults living with Alzheimer's disease is on the rise. According to an annual report from the Alzheimer’s Association, almost seven million Americans aged 65 and older live with the disease. During National Alzheimer’s and Brain Health Awareness Month, let us take a closer look at the disease that impacts millions of individuals and families worldwide.

What is Alzheimer’s?

Alzheimer's is a progressive brain disorder that gradually diminishes memory and cognitive abilities, eventually making daily tasks difficult without aid. It is the leading cause of dementia, and although the disease typically occurs later in life, early-onset Alzheimer’s can affect people younger than 65.

Signs and symptoms

The symptoms of Alzheimer's vary among individuals but typically worsen over time. Early warning signs may include:

  • Memory lapses
  • Difficulty with familiar tasks
  • Confusion
  • Language difficulties

As the disease advances, individuals may face:

  • Severe memory loss
  • Disorientation
  • Personality or mood changes
  • Challenges with motor skills

In later stages, constant care may be necessary as the ability to recognize loved ones, communicate, and self-care diminishes. If you think you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of Alzheimer’s, talk with a doctor. Cognitive assessment tools are available to help doctors screen for signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

Care and support

Receiving an Alzheimer’s diagnosis can be overwhelming for the individual and their support system. However, strategies and support networks are available to help navigate the challenges posed by the disease. Early detection and intervention can provide access to treatments that may slow the progression of symptoms and improve overall quality of life. For example, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) emphasizes the role of nutrition in reducing symptom severity for those living with the disease.

Creating a nurturing environment, adhering to routines, and adapting communication methods can also enhance the well-being of those affected. If you become a caregiver the task can be an overwhelming and time-consuming one, particularly when a higher level of care is required. With that in mind, finding ways to modify a home environment to make it safer and more comfortable can often provide comfort and assurance for you and your loved one.

Caregiving can be physically, mentally, and emotionally taxing. In fact, the Family Caregiver Alliance notes that this can worsen over time, and about 17% of caregivers feel their own health has declined because of their responsibilities.

Support groups for caregivers and in-home care services offer valuable assistance to those caring for loved ones with Alzheimer's. The Alzheimer’s Association provides resources and information for individuals and families impacted by the disease.

If you are a patient with Alzheimer’s or a caregiver, you may want to learn about the Memory Division at Massachusetts General Hospital, which provides comprehensive diagnostic and treatment services for Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.

Stay connected with Mass General Brigham Health Plan by following @MGBHealthPlan on InstagramLinkedIn, and Facebook.

Back to Blog