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Caring For Family Members With Alzheimer's Disease

4019 words - 16 pages

"Confusion, Anxiety, Anger and Pain, Despair" these are some of the words that Kaunie Hagensen uses to describe her condition in the poem Lost. (Hagensen 1999) These feelings are shared by many people today who suffer from, or have family members who suffer from Alzheimer's disease. The Encyclopedia of Alzheimer's Disease describes it as being, "a progressive degenerative disease characterized by the death of nerve cells in several areas of the brain. While the most obvious symptom is loss of memory, the disease also causes problems with emotional control, vision, and language." (Turkington 2003, 14) "Alzheimer's disease" has previously been used to describe dementia arising in middle age, but because of the neuropathological differences that have been found, today it refers to a "common primary degenerative dementia occurring later in life" also known as senile dementia. (Evans 1990, 267) The change in the meaning of Alzheimer’s disease occurred prior to the 1960’s. This disease is a problem that primarily affects elderly persons age 85 and older, but recently it has also been associated with adults 65 years and older. As life expectancy increases, so does the impact of the disease, especially in developed countries like the United States. A study that estimated the prevalence of Alzheimer's disease in the United States used results from East Boston in 1980, and applied them, by age and sex, to population projections for the United States from 1990 to 2050. The results of this study showed that in 1980, 11.3 percent of people 65 years of age or older had Alzheimer's disease. By 2050, the number of persons 65 years of age or older that have Alzheimer's disease in the United States is expected to exceed 10 million. (Evans 1990, 273-275)1

This study has a few sources of possible error. It is possible that the prevalence estimates in East Boston could be flawed, or the population projections could be inaccurate. In an effort to lessen the impact this has on the results of the study, the estimates from East Boston were applied to a high, middle, and low series interval of the population. The high, middle, and low series intervals are given to buffer the results of the study. The population may not grow at the rate at it is expected to so the high interval is given in case the population grows at a rate higher than expected, and the low interval in case the population grows at a slower rate than expected. This gives a broader set of results that may be more accurate. Though the results of this study are not exact, the trend that they show is correct and useful. With the baby boomer generation steadily reaching post-retirement age, more people are being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and the issue of their care becomes a concern to them and their families. This raises many questions: What is Alzheimer's disease? Is it different from senility or amnesia? What causes it? Does a person with Alzheimer's disease need special care?...

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