Life is a beautiful gift. Too often may we take this gift for granted. As individuals, each and every one of us work extremely hard to earn a reputable reputation which we are reflected upon. Throughout life, one of the biggest assets to retain is undeniably our health. Like most dimensions of health, an individual can improve muscular strength, cardiovascular health, physical strength and mental strength. Of these dimensions, the mental state of the brain and mind takes the highest precedence. All throughout life, we each strive to better and advance our mental state. From the first year of school, teachers focus to advance our ability to utilize our minds, to become more mentally focused and prepared. Throughout grade school, we prepare for college so that we may have full potential to earn a degree. While we attend undergraduate and graduate school at a college or university, we prepare for what the rest of our young lives will hold. Our degree is the key to success, the key to open the door of opportunity. The amount of countless hours of work that we have sacrificed will forever to put into excellent use in our future. As we continue to better our lives, we have the utmost control in our mental health. As we may run into obstacles involving health, we have hope for that technology will always be there in times of need to heal and better us. For what ever curveball life throws at us, we have to ability to fight it off and hit a home run. As great that technology may seem, there is one crucial dark disease that we cannot control, and it happens to be a disease that technology cannot even cure. Through the 110 years of research since the discovery, Alzheimer’s Disease has had a tremendous impact on the lives of many individuals. As technology continues to advance, a cure to Alzheimer’s Disease has yet to be discovered. Alzheimer’s Disease affects the lives and wellbeing of family members, creates suicidal tendencies in patients, and it progresses through seven stages. Through the research of Alzheimer’s Disease, one position is prevalent; advanced research on Alzheimer’s Disease must be done. As stated in “Alzheimer’s Association”, “Alzheimer’s Disease accounts for 60% to 70% of cases of dementia.” Researchers must successfully develop a safe, effective treatment and cure for Alzheimer’s Disease.
Alzheimer’s Disease is an irreversible, dynamic issue of the brain which gradually devastates memory and speculation aptitudes. This disease prompts to a battle while completing the easiest day-to-day tasks. Of the vast majority of individuals with Alzheimer’s, side effects first show up sometime in the 60s, depending on the individual. Alzheimer’s Disease is the most widely known form of mental diseases. The brain is made out of three primary parts, the cerebrum, the brain stem, and the cerebellum. These three parts make it the most intense organ. Despite that, the surface has a consistency of Jell-O while weighing in at just about three pounds. The cerebrum tops off the greater part of the skull which is included in recalling, critical thinking, considering, and feeling. The brain stem sits underneath the cerebrum before the cerebellum. It associates the cerebrum to the spinal rope and controls programmed capacities. For example, breathing, absorption, heart rate and circulatory strain. The cerebellum sits at the back of the head, under the cerebrum which is responsible for the control of coordination and adjust. The cerebrum is fed by one of the body’s wealthiest systems of veins. With every pulse, veins convey around 20 to 25 percent of your blood to your brain, where billions of cells use around 20 percent of the oxygen and fuel the blood traveling through vessels. MacGill includes, “Most of the thoughts processed in the brain occurs in individual cells. An adult brain contains about 100 billion nerve cells, or neurons, with branches that connect at more than 100 trillion points. Signals traveling through the neurons form the basis of memories, thoughts, and feelings.” In Alzheimer’s disease, neurons are the major cell that is destroyed.
The brain itself is a complex organ which works in phenomenal ways. The main function of the brain is to send signals that form memories and thoughts through an individual nerve cell as a tiny electrical charge. In turn, nerve cells connect to one another at synapses. When a charge reaches a synapse, it may trigger a release of tiny bursts of chemicals called neurotransmitters. The neurotransmitters travel across the synapse, carrying signals to other cells. Scientists have identified dozens of neurotransmitters. In other words, this is how the brain communicates with the body and allows the body to carry out the necessary functions. Based on “Plaques In Alzheimer’s Disease”, plaques are found between the dying cells in the brain from the build-up of a protein called beta-amyloid. The tangles created from these plaques are within the brain neurons from a disintegration of another protein, called tau(Medicine Plus 3). These built up protein clumps found around the neurons in the brain are the main cause of Alzheimer’s Disease. These clumps disrupt the way electrical charges travel within cells and the activity of neurotransmitters, making it difficult for the brain to carry out necessary actions.
The effects that Alzheimer’s Disease plays on the patient is huge, but the effects it has on the family of the patient can be even greater. When a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, the effects on the family can be overwhelming. The reality that someone you care for has Alzheimer’s Disease can trigger a range of emotions including anger, fear, frustration and even lead to depression. It is common to experience this range of emotion, along with feeling guilty. Emotions play a huge role in patients, and credited by “Definition of Alzheimer’s Disease”, “Guilt can come from the way the person with Alzheimer’s Disease was treated in the past, feeling embarrassed by their odd behavior, for the lost tempers or for not wanting the responsibility of caring for a person with the disease.” If the person with Alzheimer’s Disease goes into the hospital or into residential care, a family member may feel guilty for not keeping him or her at home for a longer period of time. The problem with guilt is that the diagnosis is out of any one’s control although an individual feels as if they could have done something to prevent such a thing.
Due to the lack of treatment and the absence of a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease, questions concerning assisted suicide for patients whom are suffering began to surface. The issue of assisted suicide and Alzheimer’s Disease began to receive national attention in 1990, when Michigan pathologist Jack Kevorkian assisted in the suicide of Janet Adkins, a 54-year-old woman diagnosed with probable Alzheimer’s. Under federal law, physician assisted suicide is currently not legal despite the many attempts to pass the law. “15% of patients who are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s would select the path of physician assisted suicide, while 5% of all patients diagnosed commit suicide while in the early stages of Alzheimer’s,” as stated in “Alzheimer’s from a New Angle.” Physician assisted suicide will continue to raise complex ethical and legislative questions in years to come. While the furor surrounding physician assisted suicide has the potential to polarize American society, the debate has also focused the Alzheimer’s Association on improving end-of-life services. By providing families with better end-of-life care options, we as a society will be better equipped to tackle the issue of physician assisted suicide. More importantly, the creation of such options will help reduce the suffering and grief associated with the final stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Due to the rapid progression of the disease, every patient lives the final years of life suffering without any hope of defeating such a disease. While life may throw us curveballs, such as patients who are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, no one deserves to live a life of suffering. Patients unfortunately cannot prevent such a disease from forming despite their lifestyle choices. Alzheimer’s Disease comes with age, therefore leaving the individual under no control of the disease. The patient diagnosed will live the final years of their life going through a downward spiral until death. When an individual is diagnosed, this is what runs through their mind. Unlike many other diseases, there is no hope of defeating Alzheimer’s Disease. This leads to the thoughts of physician assisted suicide or suicide. To have physician assisted suicide, patients will not have to suffer through the next years of their life until they are brain-dead. They could have the option of a very peaceful death, which will relieve the family of the patient knowing their loved one will not endure any suffering.
Alzheimer’s Disease is one of, if not the most progressive diseases of the brain. Through the progression, there are seven stages of the disease which may be reached, each of the stages progressively becoming more severe. The first stage is fairly simple. During this stage, Alzheimer’s Disease is not detectable and no memory problems or other symptoms of dementia are evident. Though the disease has already began the process of developing, the patient does not show symptoms. In stage two, the individual, or in most cases the senior, may notice minor memory problems or lose things around the house. This is where short-term memory loss is apparent although it is not to the point where the memory loss can easily be distinguished from normal age related memory loss. The person will still do well on memory tests and the disease is unlikely to be detected by physicians or loved ones. The problem with this stage is the fact that it could very easily be age related which is why the lack of research in Alzheimer’s Disease is a growing concern(“Seven Stages” 1). In the third stage of progression, the friends and family members of the senior may begin to notice memory and cognitive problems. Performance on memory and cognitive tests are affected and physicians will be able to detect impaired cognitive function. At this stage, mild Alzheimer’s Disease is able to be detected. Individuals will also have trouble distinguishing certain words in conversations as well as remembering names to new faces. Also, the individual will have trouble organizing thoughts and planning for the day’s events as well as frequently losing personal possessions, including valuables. At the fourth stage, it becomes very clear and apparent that the senior is affected by Alzheimer’s Disease. He or she will begin to have difficulty with simple arithmetic, have the inability to manage finance and pay bills. Memory is now greatly affected. The individual may also forget details about their life histories and short-term memory loss is progressing. For example, they may not recall what they ate for breakfast or what they did earlier in the day. “Alzheimer’s Disease: MedlinePlus” states, “Patients who are diagnosed with Stage 5 Alzheimer’s may not even comprehend that Alzheimer’s has affected the brain.” During the fifth stage of Alzheimer’s, patients begin to need help with many day-to-day activities. People in stage five of the disease may experience difficulty in the ability to recall simple details about themselves such as their own phone number. They will also have difficulty dressing themselves and finding appropriate clothing based on the weather as well as over all confusion at periods throughout the day. With stage six, an individual will experience a severe decline. Patients with the sixth stage of Alzheimer’s disease need constant supervision and frequently require professional care such as care provided in an assisted living facility. The patient will experience confusion or unawareness of the environment and its surroundings, major personality changes and potential behavior problems, the need for assistance with activities of daily living such as bathing, the inability to recognize faces except closest friends and relatives, the inability to remember most details of personal history, loss of bowel and bladder control, and wandering. In the final stage of Alzheimer’s Disease, patients experience a very severe decline. Because Alzheimer’s disease is a terminal illness, patients in stage seven are nearing death. In stage seven of the disease, patients lose ability to respond to their environment or communicate. While they may still be able to utter words and phrases, they have no insight into their condition and need assistance with all activities of daily living. In the final stages of the illness, patients may lose their ability to swallow and often suffer severe weight loss. Overall, the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease is very severe and is catching attention from all over the world. Too many families are suffering from the loss of loved ones due to this terrifying disease. The need for further research to discover a cure is urgent.
It is urgent that not only further research needs to be conducted, but education specializing in Alzheimer’s Disease must be more prevalent as well. More often than not, doctors whom have patients with symptoms of Alzheimer’s cannot correctly and confidently differentiate between dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. “Alzheimer’s Disease Center: Dementia Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatments” states that, “Dementia, also known as senility, is the name for a group of symptoms caused by disorders that affect the brain. It is not a specific disease.” People with dementia may not be able to think well enough to do normal activities, such as getting dressed or eating. They may lose their ability to solve problems or control their emotions. Their personalities may change. They may become agitated or see things that are not there. Memory loss is a common symptom of dementia. However, memory loss by itself does not mean you have dementia. People with dementia have serious problems with two or more brain functions, such as memory and language. Although dementia is common in very elderly people, it is not part of normal aging. The difference is that dementia is not a progressive disease like Alzheimer’s Disease, although Alzheimer’s is a common form of dementia. Due to the lack of screenings for Alzheimer’s, it can be difficult to successfully diagnose a patient with this disease. This can be alarming and worry-some for the family and loved ones of the patient. If a patient has dementia, there is hope. But for Alzheimer’s Disease, patients are at a race against time. Even if there comes a time when Alzheimer’s can be diagnosed in the early stages, current research has yet to discover a cure, leaving very little hope for the patient’s family and loved ones.
Currently, treatment by medication is the only hope patients with Alzheimer’s Disease may have. As Alzheimer’s progresses, brain cells die and connections among cells are lost, causing cognitive symptoms to worsen. “Medications for Memory Loss” summarizes the effect of the medications used for treatment by adding, “While current medications cannot stop the damage Alzheimer’s causes to brain cells, they may help lessen or stabilize symptoms for a limited time by affecting certain chemicals involved in carrying messages among the brain’s nerve cells.” Doctors often prescribe both types of medications together, while others also prescribe high doses of vitamin E for cognitive changes of Alzheimer’s disease. All of the prescription medications currently approved to treat Alzheimer’s symptoms in early to moderate stages are from a class of drugs called cholinesterase inhibitors. Cholinesterase inhibitors are prescribed to treat symptoms related to memory, thinking, language, judgment and other thought processes. Although it may seem promising, it does not prevent the progression of the disease. It is inevitable that a cure for this terrifying disease must be found.
The human brain is, without an unreasonable doubt, the organ with the utmost importance. What would life be without the brain? The importance of the brain is beyond any measurement, so why shouldn’t knowledge of the brain have the same importance? A cure from research must be found for numerous reasons. Alzheimer’s Disease has destroyed the lives of not only the individuals whom are diagnosed, but the family and loved ones of the patient as well. Patients live in fear; they fear for their lives as well as the fear that they may never remember who they are, or who their family is. Nursing homes and assisted living facilities are overwhelmed by patients with Alzheimer’s Disease. Suicides have been reported in patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease due to the fear of how their brain will affect their lives. Will we ever live to see a future without Alzheimer’s Disease? Picture the brain as the Earth. Alzheimer’s Disease is similar to an epidemic, the disease begins very small with little to no effects. Within time, it rapidly grows and multiplies until the entire brain has been succumbed with the disease. There must be a way to prevent and cure Alzheimer’s Disease. Awareness must be spread, and a cure must be found.
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