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Help With Alzheimer's Disease

Curated and updated for the community by APA

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative condition. It is one of the most common forms of dementia, a group of symptoms that lead to a decline in mental function severe enough to disrupt daily life. Alzheimer’s causes problems with a person’s memory and ability to learn, reason, make judgments, communicate and carry out daily activities. First identified in 1907 by the German physician Alois Alzheimer, the illness afflicts about 5 million Americans. An estimated one in nine adults aged 65 and older lives with the disease.

People with Alzheimer's disease first develop subtle memory loss and personality changes that differs from normal age-related memory problems. They seem to tire or become upset or anxious more easily. They do not cope well with change. For example, they can follow familiar routes but traveling to a new place confuses them and they can easily become lost. In the early stages of the illness, people with Alzheimer's disease are particularly susceptible to depression

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  • Apr 27, 2020
“Nowhere to Turn”: COVID-19 and Caregiver Stress

“I need help, and I have nowhere to turn.” I find this a frighteningly common refrain among my patients who are also caregivers for people with dementia, autism, or children with a panoply of mental health conditions who need consistency and structure. As an individual psychiatrist, there seems to be no option, and I simply listen. Clearly, all caregivers are encountering difficulties—including parents of typical children who need to both work and parent their children through online learning and increased anxiety. For both personal and professional reasons, however, I find the situation of our older adult caregivers to be among the most fraught

  • Mar 24, 2020
Online Support for People with Mental Health Conditions

While these unprecedented times are stressful for everyone, people with mental health conditions may face particular challenges. As much as possible, try to keep up your overall health, try to follow your treatment plan, and try to manage your stress. Engage in activities that help manage your stress, such as exercise, relaxation techniques and creative activities. It is even more important to stay connected with friends, family and your support network. Many organizations offer ways to connect and find support online or by phone for general mental health and for specific conditions.

  • Oct 28, 2019
Possible Link Between Personality in High School and Dementia Risk

Can a person’s personality type in high school increase their risk of dementia late in life? A new study finds a connection between certain personality types and an increased risk of dementia later in life. The study, published in JAMA Psychiatry in October 2019, looked at data on more than 80,000 participants in the Project Talent, a national sample of high school students in 1960, and Medicare data on dementia more than 50 years later, between 2011 and 2013.

I understand there are medications that can help with Alzheimer’s. Are there medications that actually help slow memory loss? Are they appropriate for everyone with Alzheimer’s?

There are no medications available today which slow memory loss over an extended period of time. The medications approved for Alzheimer’s have been shown in controlled studies to slow memory loss over a few months, but after 6-12 months, memory decline in those who take the medications is similar to those who do not take the medications. New drugs are being studied, and hopefully one or more will demonstrate a clear ability to reduce or stop the decline in memory impairment (we should not expect any of the drugs to restore memory loss). More

My father-in-law is experiencing some memory problems. At what point should he seek help?

It is always a good plan to have your father-in-law examined by an experienced geriatrician or geriatric psychiatrist when signs of memory loss emerge. The reason is that memory loss may not be due to Alzheimer’s or another irreversible dementia. Medications, an acute illness, or even a brain tumor may be causing the problem. Nevertheless, over the long run for the vast majority of persons with memory loss, it is important to monitor function carefully. Occasional forgetfulness, such as forgetting names, is not a major problem. Yet when the older adult begins to leave the stove on, repeatedly loses his car keys and cannot locate them, cannot keep up with usual personal business (such as banking) or cannot find his way home driving from a familiar place, then help (often from a social worker) is most important to maintain independent living as long as possible. Alzheimer’s support groups are found in most communities and they can be of great assistance to people with Alzheimer’s and their families. You can start with your state or local office on aging or a local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. More

My mom has memory problems that are really impacting her life, but she’s refusing to seek evaluation or help. What can we do?

In such situations, I will revert to the “family conference.” In such a setting, all significant members of the family (spouse if living, children, siblings) meet alone first and agree on the significance of the problem and what needs to be done with the assistance of a social worker who is skilled in the day-to-day management of memory problems. A plan is devised. Then the family meets with the older adult and as a group virtually insists that the older adult seek help, if not for her sake, then for the sake of the family. Have an appointment already set up. Have at least two family members go with the older adult to the evaluation and make certain that the family (in the presence of the older adult) express to the clinician the problems that have been noticed. This approach works most of the time IF the family is in agreement and speaks as one voice. More

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About the Expert:

Dan G. Blazer, M.D., Ph.D.
Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
Professor in Community and Family Medicine
Duke University School of Medicine

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SEPT 28 2020

Researchers uncover epigenetic drivers for Alzheimer's disease

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SEPT 28 2020

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Americans worry about Alzheimer's disease, survey finds, but most don't know the early signs and symptoms

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A nationwide study reveals that although many Americans say they want to reduce their risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, they’re largely misinformed when it comes to risk factors beyond genetics and age. According to a MDVIP/Ipsos survey 80% of Americans want to reduce their risk of dementia, but only about 35% say they know the symptoms.