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Early Alzheimer's Disease
Patient and Family Guide

© Agency for Health Care Policy and Research

Contents

Terms You Need to Know
Purpose of this Booklet
What is Alzheimer's Disease?
Who Is Affected?
Possible Signs of Alzheimer's Disease
Consulting the Doctor
Special Tests
Getting the Right Care
Where to Get Help?
Other Booklets Are Available
Resources for Patients and Families



Terms You Need to Know

Dementia is a medical condition that interferes with the way the brain works. Symptoms include anxiety, paranoia, personality changes, lack of initiative, and difficulty acquiring new skills. Besides Alzheimer's disease, some other types or causes of dementia include: alcoholic dementia, depression, delirium, HIV/AIDS-related dementia, Huntington's disease (a disorder of the nervous system), inflammatory disease (for example, syphilis), vascular dementia (blood vessel disease in the brain), tumors, and Parkinson's disease.

Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia. It proceeds in stages over months or years and gradually destroys memory, reason, judgment, language, and eventually the ability to carry out even simple tasks.

Delirium is a state of temporary but acute mental confusion that comes on suddenly. Symptoms may include anxiety, disorientation, tremors, hallucinations, delusions, and incoherence. Delirium can occur in older persons who have short-term illnesses, heart or lung disease, long-term infections, poor nutrition, or hormone disorders. Alcohol or drugs (including medications) also may cause confusion.

Delirium may be life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention.

Depression can occur in older persons, especially those with physical problems. Symptoms include sadness, inactivity, difficulty thinking and concentrating, and feelings of despair. Depressed persons often have trouble sleeping, changes in appetite, fatigue, and agitation. Depression usually can be treated successfully.

Purpose of this Booklet
This booklet is about Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia. It presents information for patients, family members, and other caregivers. It talks about the effects Alzheimer's disease can have on you, your family members, and your friends.

The booklet describes the early signs and symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. Sources of medical, social, and financial support are listed in the back of the booklet. This booklet is not about treating Alzheimer's disease.

Return to Contents

What Is Alzheimer's Disease?
In Alzheimer's disease and other dementias, problems with memory, judgment, and thought processes make it hard for a person to work and take part in day-to-day family and social life. Changes in mood and personality also may occur. These changes can result in loss of self-control and other problems.

Some 2 to 4 million persons have dementia associated with aging. Of these individuals, as many as two-thirds have Alzheimer's disease.

Although there is no cure for Alzheimer's disease at this time, it may be possible to relieve some of the symptoms, such as wandering and incontinence.

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Disclaimer: The information provided on HealthWorld Online is for educational purposes only and IS NOT intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek professional medical advice from your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.