Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common cause of dementia. Dementia is a condition in which a person develops difficulties with cognitive function. This means the person has difficulty with judgment, the ability to reason or memory.
Alzheimer’s disease: what you should know
Some common early Alzheimer’s disease symptoms include the following:
- Getting lost in familiar settings
- Difficulty with complex tasks
- Difficulty with language, such as not remembering the correct word for items
- Dementia specialists can help you rule out other conditions that may cause thinking problems, such as a brain tumor, stroke or depression.
Memory loss is not inevitable as you age. Research at Rush suggests that the following lifestyle changes have the potential to slow mental decline and delay symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s:
- Having a “higher purpose” and finding meaning in life
- Maintaining a social network
- Getting regular physical exercise
- Eating a diet rich in omega 3 fatty acids, vegetables, fish and olive oil with moderate alcohol consumption (known as the Mediterranean diet)
- Engaging in mentally stimulating activities
How can I get help for Alzheimer’s disease?
- If you suspect you or a loved one has Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia, see your primary care physician. Most primary care physicians have the ability to diagnose and treat Alzheimer’s disease.
- If your primary care doctor needs additional support for your care, he or she may seek the advice of a dementia specialist, like those at Rush. A dementia specialist can include a geriatrician (an internist or family medicine physician who focuses on older adults only), a neurologist who specializes in treating dementia or a psychiatrist who specializes in older adults (geropsychiatrist).
Care for Alzheimer’s disease at Rush
- Assessing cognitive function: Sometimes special tests are needed to understand how Alzheimer’s may be affecting different areas of your cognitive function. In those cases, your doctor may recommend you see a neuropsychologist who can administer and interpret these cognitive tests.
Managing symptoms: Your health care team will focus on helping you manage your symptoms and preserve your quality of life for as long as possible. They may recommend some of the following:
- Medications: Your doctor may prescribe medication to help with the symptoms of memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s.
- Focus on safety: Your health care team may work with you or your caregiver to ensure your home environment is safe. As Alzheimer’s progresses, people become more at risk for falls, wandering or getting in an accident while driving.
Emotional support: A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s can be frightening. Dementia specialists at Rush are here to help you. They can provide guidance for adjusting to changes and connection to available resources in your community. In addition, dementia specialists at Rush offer two support programs:
- Family and Friends of People With Memory Loss is a monthly support and education group exclusively for caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s or another dementia.
- Without Warning is a monthly support group for people with young onset Alzheimer’s disease and their family members. Young onset Alzheimer’s disease means people diagnosed before the age of 65.
- Clinical trials: Dementia specialists at Rush frequently offer clinical trials of potential new treatments for Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Your primary care provider or dementia specialists may recommend you participate in a study for an investigational drug or other therapy as part of your treatment.
Why choose Rush for Alzheimer’s disease care
- Alzheimer specialists at Rush are active researchers. This means you will have access to the latest understandings of the disease, as well as other therapies to help you maintain your quality of life.
- Alzheimer specialists at Rush see a high-volume of dementia patients. This experience gives them the ability to distinguish and diagnose different types of dementia and the therapies that will work better with each type. They understand and can support you and your family through the emotional experience of Alzheimer’s disease.
- The neurological sciences and neurological surgery programs at Rush are consistently ranked among the best in the country by U. S. News & World Report in its annual “Best Hospitals” issue.