January is Alzheimer Awareness Month. The mere mention of this disease gives many of us the chills. To watch all of one’s memories fade one by one and disappear forever. Gently lose your autonomy until you forget your own name. This disease wreaks havoc in the memory of those who have it, but also in their immediate surroundings.
Alzheimer is the most common neurocognitive disorder. It represents between 60 and 80% of all diagnoses. In Quebec, this disease and those related to it affect 152,121 people over the age of 65. According to the Société Alzheimer de Québec, within 15 years, these diseases will affect 937,000 people in Canada and 260,000 Quebecers, an increase of 66%.
To this day, the cause of this disease is still unknown. However, certain factors increase the risk of developing this disease. Indeed, age, gender (women being predominantly affected), family history, genes, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, brain damage and Down syndrome are factors identified as being at risk.
There are some warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease that may raise suspicion and indicate that medical consultation is necessary. These signs affect the person in an unusual way. Here they are:
- Memory loss that interferes with daily activities
Occasionally forgetting an appointment, a colleague’s name or a phone number and remembering it later is normal. A person with Alzheimer’s disease will often forget things and not remember them later, especially recent events.
- Difficulty performing familiar tasks
- Speech problems
- Disorientation in time and space
- Impaired judgment
- Difficulties with abstract notions
- Misplaced items
- Changes in mood or behavior
- Personality changes
- Lack of interest
Is Alzheimer hereditary?
The majority of cases are “sporadic”; that is, they are not hereditary. Only rare cases of Alzheimer’s disease are inherited and account for less than 5% of all cases. Genetic testing is available for families with a history of this form of the disease.
Live happily with the illness
If you have recently been diagnosed, first you need to know that there are resources and help to support you and your family. While each journey with the disease is unique, know that it is possible to live well with Alzheimer’s disease or another neurocognitive disorder. Studies show that there are several things you can do that can improve your journey with the disease. For example, adopt a healthy lifestyle which helps slow down its progression and makes it easier to manage the changes that come with it.