Ladies and Gentlemen, this is Alzheimer’s disease

Holding a practice ball in his hand, the late Vince Lombardi, coach of the Green Bay Packers, began the first day of training camp with these words, “Gentlemen, this is a football.” Who doesn’t recognize a football? But, it’s kind of like that with Alzheimer’s disease. We think we know what it looks like, but aren’t certain we’ll recognize it, if it shows its ugly head.

The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America defines Alzheimer’s disease as “a progressive, degenerative disorder that attacks the brain’s nerve cells, or neurons, resulting in loss of memory, thinking and language skills, and behavioral changes“.

Somehow, with all the medical terms, the definition of Alzheimer’s doesn’t sound as heinous as it really is. But, those of us who care for loved ones, are all too familiar with its fiendish ways. The results of what happens to a brain when it begins to degenerate is beyond imagination. Though Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, caregivers will tell you, that even the word dementia doesn’t do it justice.

And, ladies and gentleman, THIS is Alzheimer’s disease.

Its final form is crippling-demise, which may be the reason that many don’t recognize Alzheimer’s in the early stages. Alzheimer’s has one redeeming factor; it is often slowly unfolded. Unfortunately, this can work against the undiagnosed, who tend to compare their cognitive abilities to persons who have been facing the disease for some time. Obviously, the cognitive ability of a person in the early stages, will be vastly superior to those in the waning stages of the disease.

Self diagnosis

Do not self-diagnose. It may sound funny, but this is exactly what a lot of people tend to do. It is a form of denial. Here’s what often happens. Knowing someone who has dementia, you begin to compare yourself with their capabilities; and surprise, you come out feeling pretty good about your cognitive abilities. You can, after all, remember your own name, where you live, and what you had for breakfast. This isn’t a real test.

No one wants to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, but a misdiagnosis, or going undiagnosed is worse. See a health professional for a complete physical and mental evaluation.

Diagnosis and Early Detection

Find a doctor that specializes in Alzheimer’s disease. Ask your primary physician to refer you to a healthcare provider that specializes in the treatment of Alzheimer’s diseases and other dementias. It is very important that you see a specialist in the field, as a primary doctor/general practitioner, internist, etc., may not have extensive experience with the disease.

A neurologist, psychologist, or psychiatrist will be able to diagnose your situation, as it pertains to memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s. Early detection is very important, and can assist the patient in holding the disease at bay for a long time. Alzheimer’s disease isn’t curable, but there are steps that will slow the progression of the disease.