Alzheimer's Disease

Additional Information

Alzheimer's disease is a condition that damages those parts of the brain involved in memory, intelligence, judgment, and language. It causes a general decline in a person's mental abilities (dementia) that gradually gets worse. . It is the most common cause of mental decline in older adults. The disease affects memory and personality and the ability to think, communicate, and do the basic activities of daily living.

Alzheimer's disease is different from the mild memory loss that many people experience, as they grow older. Alzheimer's disease affects not only memory but also behavior, personality, ability to think, and ability to function from day to day. Close family members usually notice symptoms first, although the person affected also may realize that something is wrong.

Alzheimer's disease always gets worse over time, but the course of the disease varies from person to person. Some people may still be able to function relatively well until late in the course of the disease. Others may lose the ability to do daily activities very early on.

Because Alzheimer's disease becomes more likely with advancing age, it is becoming a more common problem for older people, who are living longer now, and for those who take care of them. The demands of caring for a spouse or parent with Alzheimer's can be physically, emotionally, and financially draining.

However, much can be done to maintain the person's quality of life and to help the person stay active. Most people with Alzheimer's disease can be cared for at home, at least until the disease becomes severe. With support, education, and planning, caregivers may find ways of making life easier for the person they take care of and for themselves.

Over time, Alzheimer's disease causes severe mental and functional problems and eventually results in death. There is no cure for Alzheimer's disease, although some new drugs show promise in improving memory and thinking. At this point, it is not clear how long these benefits will last. However, other medical discoveries are shedding light on the cause of the disease and creating hope. As researchers learn more about the cause of the disease, they also may find better ways to treat and possibly prevent it.