The Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease that causes a global, progressive and irreversible deterioration of various cognitive functions (memory, attention, concentration, language, thought, etc.). This deterioration results in changes in the person’s behavior, personality and functional capacity, making it difficult to carry out their daily activities.
As the disease progresses, Alzheimer’s patients become unable to perform the smallest task, fail to recognize familiar faces, become incontinent and almost always end up bedridden. It is a disease very much related to age, so it affects more prevalent people over 50 years.
The exact cause of Alzheimer’s disease remains to be determined, despite ongoing research in this area.
However, it is accepted by the scientific community that it is a genetically determined disease, although it is not necessarily hereditary. In addition, some risk factors have been identified that can increase the likelihood of suffering from the disease, such as:
- High blood pressure, high cholesterol and homocysteine (toxic protein in the blood);
- Low levels of intellectual stimulation, social activity and physical exercise;
- Obesity and diabetes ;
- Serious or repeated brain damage.
Currently, there is no examination that will unquestionably identify the disease. Thus, the diagnosis must be made by a specialist doctor (neurologist or psychiatrist) through a process of excluding other causes that may be responsible for the signs and symptoms presented, since the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are often confused with signs normal aging.
Therefore, the diagnosis of this disease is made by excluding other causes of dementia, by analyzing the patient’s history, by blood tests, tomography or MRI, or other tests necessary to confirm the diagnosis.
The first signs of the disease are small forgetfulness, memory loss, normally accepted by the family and themselves as part of the normal aging process, but which over time gradually worsen.
As the disease progresses, patients have language problems with difficulty finding the right words or creating paraphrases (speaking without meaning). Understanding language also becomes increasingly difficult, patients become confused and, at times, aggressive, presenting personality changes, with conduct disorders.
In the most advanced stage of the disease, they end up not recognizing their own family members and even themselves when placed in front of a mirror, they become increasingly dependent on third parties, locomotion difficulties start, communication becomes impossible and they need comprehensive care and supervision, even for elementary daily activities, such as food, hygiene, clothing, etc.
Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, however, there are medications that enable the symptomatic treatment of most cognitive and behavioral changes. Although they cannot prevent progressive neuronal loss, existing drugs can help to stabilize and minimize some symptoms.
Thus, the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease focuses on two variables: behavioral aspects and pharmacological treatment of chemical imbalances that occur in the brain.
The non-pharmacological intervention concerns a set of interventions that aim to maximize the person’s cognitive functioning and well-being, as well as helping them in the process of adapting to the disease. The activities developed are aimed at stimulating the person’s capacities, preserving, for as long as possible, their autonomy, comfort and dignity.