Alzheimer’s Disease: Eating away at brains and wallets

As explained in a previous blog, Alzheimer’s disease is a disorder in the brain where there is complete loss of function and in scans comparing a normal brain and a diseased brain, one can see the loss of brain tissue.

People with Alzheimer’s struggle remembering day to day things and the more progressive cases can forget family members. They forget how to do basic functions like regular day to day stuff. For example, they may forget who their own daughter or wife is.

“One day early in my wife’s battle with Alzheimer’s I made a statement about not remembering where I put something. She looked at me and asked if I needed one of her pills.”

Mike, husband of an Alzheimer’s patient

There are many thoughts/hypothesizes on what is the cause of such degeneration or loss of brain and nerve tissue. One of the Hypothesis that is being tested for at the moment is the cholinergic hypothesis

The Cholinergic Hypothesis

The cholinergic function hypothesis is an explanation for the disease saying that there is an dysfunction or interruption of a neurotransmitter(brain chemical that controls various functions) called Acetylcholine.

Acetylcholine is a brain chemical that plays a role in muscle activation, sensory (physical feeling) information, and the dream portion of a person’s sleep. The disruption of the chemical can cause plaques which are thought to be responsible for the holes seen in the diseased brain model. This model is used by many researchers in drug trials and other research settings.

Why is Alzheimer’s important ?

It affects all of us. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 1 in 3 seniors die of Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. This means that we all have a high chance of witnessing someone we love experience this or experiencing it ourselves.

We lack residency trained physicians in diagnoses and care. Only 22% of primary care physicians are residency trained. Of 78% minimally trained physicians, 65% reported the amount of training was “very little” according to Alzheimer’s Association.

According to Alzheimer’s Association, it costs so much for treatment and care:

  • Expected out of pocket spendingto treat the disease is about $66 billion for all individuals.
  • Payments are expected to increase to more that $1.1 trillion dollars in 2050 for all individuals.
  • Total Lifetime cost for individual is estimated at $ $357,297

What can be done for family members?

If someone in your family has Alzheimer’s, the best thing you can do is be there for them. It is important to still be there for them even when they forget who you are. It is important to still show up even when you may leave at the end of the day crying because the person you are visiting doesn’t seem like they are themselves anymore. It important to still show up because it is worse for them to feel alone during this time. They too are upset that they can’t remember who you are. It hurts them to not remember.

If you continue to show up, they will remember that you care. I personally try and visit nursing homes monthly to play board games with patients I am not related to. I do this because I care about others and have seen and heard stories from those who have Alzheimer’s and feel lonely. I visit as an attempt to help others feel not as alone.

Another way you can truly help the continued progress in the research is to donate. Donations help to continue research as it is so costly.

Donate to the Alzheimer’s Association. The money goes towards continuing research to benefit those who are and will suffer.

What is next for Neuro Psych Nerd?

The next Blog will be about neurons. Neurons are cells in your brain that help to communicate within the brain. More detain will be on its way.

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