What you Might Not Know About Alzheimer’s

By Angie McClure,
Community Relations Consultant
MeadowView Memory Care Village

Almost everyone has heard of Alzheimer’s. What most people do know about the disease is that the person living with the disease has difficulty remembering names, events, or recent conversations. They might know that later symptoms can include poor judgment, unusual behavior, and impaired communication.

However, did you know that sometimes unrelated conditions cause similar symptoms to dementia? These conditions are usually treatable, and include depression, thyroid problems, excessive alcohol use, medication side effects, and delirium. If your loved one is showing any of these signs, please consider discussing this with your physician before jumping to the conclusion that they have Alzheimer’s or dementia.

You also might not know that you don’t need a family history of Alzheimer’s to contract the disease yourself. But people with a sister, brother, or parent who has Alzheimer’s are more likely to develop the condition. The University of Iowa has research studies available for families to participate in at no cost to them.

Individuals can connect to Alzheimer’s studies at the University of Iowa and in other locations through the Alzheimer’s Association’s TrialMatch program at www.alz.org/TrialMatch. TrialMatch is a free, easy-to-use matching service that connects individuals with Alzheimer’s, caregivers, healthy volunteers and physicians to more than 225 research studies across the country.

The Alzheimer’s Association created TrialMatch because recruiting and retaining participants for clinical studies is one of the greatest obstacles to developing the next generation of Alzheimer treatments. The immediate need for advances in diagnosis, treatment and prevention has led to an unprecedented call for clinical study participants.

“By volunteering for clinical studies, people with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers can play a more active role in their own treatment while also contributing to scientific discovery that benefits future generations,” states Melissa Pence, executive director of the Alzheimer’s Association East Central Iowa Chapter. “As individuals become more knowledgeable and curious about Alzheimer’s research, having a program like TrialMatch is critical to achieving our vision of a world without Alzheimer’s disease.”

“Locally, through the generosity of our donors and funds raised through special events such as the Walk to End Alzheimer’s, the Alzheimer’s Association East Central Iowa Chapter is able to contribute monetarily toward advancements in research in addition to providing programs and services to area families,” says Pence.

Unfortunately, a large number of individuals living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia suffer from depression. They feel isolated, frustrated and sad that their brains are changing and they have no control over it. Often times those living with Alzheimer’s are prescribed an antidepressant to aide in the reduction of these feelings. Try to be understanding of the emotional stress an Alzheimer’s diagnosis and its symptoms can have. Don’t jump to the conclusion that someone’s negative behaviors have to be managed with heavy medications.

Often times those behaviors are due to frustration and the inability to express ones needs. Antipsychotic medications are not recommended for individuals living with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. Note that in the case of underlying mental illness it may be necessary, but often times it is not. Be aware of this and advocate for your loved one.

There is a lot we know about how Alzheimer’s affects the individual living with the disease and the family dealing with the emotional roller-coaster. However, there are many unknowns. Your participation in research studies, just like in other disease studies, will only assist researchers in learning more about what causes the disease and in turn what can assist in curing the disease.

Learn more at www.alz.org/TrialMatch.

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