Alzheimer's Disease - Information, Facts and Causes

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Alzheimer’s Disease is a cruel and insidious condition which creeps up on its victims and stealthily tears their world apart over a number of years. It’s a particularly merciless disease in that it that wreaks as much (if not more) havoc in the lives of loved ones as it does in the life of the sufferer.

It ultimately kills – but it can take many years to do so. And these can be excruciatingly painful years for everyone involved; years in which the victim’s personality changes beyond all recognition. Partners, relatives and friends stand by helpless and desperate watching the person they love slip away from them into a murky world which no-one else can enter. That’s why they call it the “Long Goodbye”.

Alzheimer’s – What is It? What Causes It?

“Imagine slowly forgetting everything you ever learned in life?

Imagine not knowing what day, year or season it is? Imagine being angry, afraid, tormented, confused, sad and frustrated most days?

Imagine being afraid to do simple tasks like take a shower? Imagine forgetting how to dress, brush your teeth, use your fork, swallow, laugh and even talk?

Imagine staying awake at night even when you are exhausted because your brain won’t rest? Imagine forgetting everyone that was important in your life…everyone you ever loved?

Imagine sitting with your mother when she turns to you and asks: "Who are you?" or "Why are you here?” Imagine a mother not recognizing her son or daughter…or a husband forgetting his wife and children?

These are real experiences of people with Alzheimer’s disease and they are devastating.”

These words were written by a woman called Shirley – a woman who knows. She’s been through that terrifying dark valley known as Alzheimer’s disease and she’s still trying to heal from the experience. Shirley has made it her mission to campaign for more support for the “angels and warriors” who care for the victims of Alzheimer’s disease. Read Shirley’s Story

So in response to “what is Alzheimer’s?” this is what we can tell you. There’s no known cause of Alzheimer’s and no cure. Meanwhile, with people living longer than ever before in the developed world, the disease in on the increase among the elderly. An estimated 18 million people worldwide suffer from the disease and experts predict that figure could double by the year 2005 unless dramatic steps are taken in terms of prevention and cure.

There are various theories about why some elderly people develop Alzheimer’s and others don’t and scientists are frantically searching for that longed-for cure. Until they find it, sufferers and those closest to them can do no more than try to cope with this distressing disease as best they can.

Alzheimer’s is a degenerative brain disease which is notoriously difficult to diagnose. It may start with mild forgetfulness and confusion which is all too easily dismissed as a normal part of the ageing process. As the disease progresses so do the symptoms, victims may not recognize their own husband, wife or child. They may forget how to talk and eat and in many cases they become uncharacteristically argumentative and aggressive.

Suddenly a grown-up “child”, who has relied all their lives on their mother or father as a pillar of strength, must become a round-the-clock carer for an increasingly helpless parent. The emotional and physical strain of caring for an Alzheimer’s sufferer can seem unbearable at times (in some poorer nations, elderly victims are simply turned out on the streets to die). Then come the terrible decisions which may rip otherwise close families apart: Who should be responsible for the sufferer? Would they be better off in a care home? What sort of medical treatment (if any) is best for them?

Guide4Living exists to provide independent information about the disease and to explore the many difficult issues arising from it. In our personal stories’ section , along with the pain and despair there are also words of encouragement and hope from people who have direct experience of dealing with Alzheimer’s – words which might shed some light in the darkness engulfing anyone else in the same unenviable position. Please if you have anything to say contact us.

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