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Alzheimer's Disease Essay

1734 words - 7 pages

Alzheimer's disease is a degenerative brain disorder that results in a decline in memory and a deterioration of many other abilities. In order to completely understand the effect of Alzheimer's on patients and their families, one must be aware of the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatments of this terminal disease. Rapidly increasing memory loss, disorientation with time and place, and confused actions describes this disease. As the disease progresses language, perceptual and motor skills deteriorate, and memory loss becomes more severe.Dr. Alois Alzheimer, a German physician, in 1906, identified for the first time what is known today as Alzheimer's disease (Alzheimer's Disease). At this time ...view middle of the document...

Often beginning with the inability to remember the proper names of things, language problems are the second major symptoms (Altman). An Alzheimer patient may have trouble finding the right words to say resulting in delays in conversation.Probably one of the most frightening symptoms of early Alzheimer's disease is confusion or disorientation. A person with Alzheimer's can lose all sense of time and place. They may become lost when they are actually in a familiar area, or they may not even know the current year. The fourth symptom is misplacing objects in widely inappropriate places or the person's inability to think logically, or reason. For example, a person may put his or her shoes in the refrigerator or be unable to cook a meal or even drive a car. Finally, with the struggle to cope with life itself, the person may become increasingly moody: happy and cheerful one minute, fearful or angry the next (Altman; Kuhn).Alzheimer's disease can not be detected by any one diagnostic test. Instead, it is determined by reviewing the person's medical history and the results of several tests. Once the tests are completed, the diagnosis is then made by a process of elimination of other diseases that may have some of the same symptoms as Alzheimer's disease (Association). In 80 percent of cases a clinical evaluation can provide a correct diagnosis (Potter). A family physician or any other medical professional can handle and perform these processes. There are six key steps to diagnosing Alzheimer's disease; determination of medical history, mental status evaluation, physical examination, neurological exam, laboratory tests, and psychiatric and psychological evaluations.To determine the medical history, the person being tested and their family members are brought in for interviews. Information, such as the person's daily activities, current mental and physical conditions, and family medical history, is then gathered. The family members and patient are interviewed both together and individually. The person's ability to remember, understand, talk, and perform simple calculations, along with their sense of time and place, will then be assessed during the mental status evaluation. Such questions may be asked: "What year is it?" "Who is the current president?" "What day of the week is it?" The patient might say "I don't know" or mention past years to lead to an Alzheimer's diagnosis. Other mental exercise tasks will also be asked of the patient, such as copying a design, spelling a word backwards, or writing a sentence. These test results will be evaluated with taking into consideration the patient's educational background and occupation (Association).The physician will evaluate the patient's nutritional status and check blood pressure and pulse during the physical exam. The patient will also be tested for the presence of cardiac, respiratory, liver, kidney, and thyroid diseases, along with atherosclerosis-the hardening of the arteries. Many of the conditions can...

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