on 11 December 2008
Excellent resource for all types of memory loss/ senility/ dementia/ stroke/ not just Alzheimer's. This book was created by the highly regarded Mayo Clinic medical center and is meant for the average reader and caregiver. It covers the different ways in which a person can develop health conditions leading to the various diagnoses under the umbrella term: "dementia". Although the book title uses the term "Alzheimer's disease, it is more fair to say anyone with a loved one with any type of dementia could benefit from this book. In general terms, anyone whose loved one is confused, is losing memory, sense of self, becoming paranoid, can no longer handle money, is no longer safe to drive, or to cook, is becoming demented. It is not about mental illness but the forms of changes in the brain at any age, (but usually old age, that leads to these losses of or changes in, identity.) Stroke, vascular disease, even small vascular 'accidents' like "TIA's", alcoholism, diabetes, head injuries, chronic Depression, are all causes, as well as true Alzheimer's disease,(100% diagnosable only on autopsy.) Parkinson's Dementia is another--almost indistinguishable from Alzheimer's but little known (and doesn't always accompany Parkinson's.) All of these lead to years of frustration for the patient as memory fades and dignity is lost, and end in tragedy in the truest sense for patient and his or her loved ones. There is no cure, only some new medications that can slightly slow the process.
However this book is very helpful in having a central section specifically for caretakers, written in clear simple language, that addresses all of the main problems that caring for a memory-impaired, confused, demented person entails. Common sense ideas, down to earth and realistic are provided ("shut off the circuit breaker to stove; remove stove knobs.") Some other points to keep in mind: no one who is aging or aged AUTOMATICALLY becomes senile or confused. It is not a part of aging. If it is happening, the person should be checked out thoroughly-- medically,including screens for depression and nutrition as well.
There are tests to determine cognitive loss, including brain MRI's for brain atrophy, which can be a cause of any type of dementia, not just Alhemer's Disease. Psychologic and neuropyschologic testing in the earliest stages of concern are important to differentiate between dementia and depression for example, also the earlier this is diagnosed the better, as the medications available, though not perfect, are more useful when started early. And, family can step in early while the affected member can participate and make plans for Living Wills, Durable Powers of Attorney, and all of the other highly important legal documents that are ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL or soon will be. Another point made in this book is that 5% of all people feared to have Alzheimer's or some other similar syndrome, when checked out thoroughly by medical professionals are found to have low thyroid, depression, vitamin deficiencies, low grade malnutrition, metabolic problems, or drug intoxication (the elderly are often on multiple prescription medications and over the counter medicines,and often their aging kidneys and livers do not deal with these as a younger person's would and they can build up in their system to an unsafe level.) Therefore all of these need to be ruled out first.
A very thorough book, easily readable, packed full of information in only 210 pages, if you're only going to buy one book on this subject, this may well be the one to buy.