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Your Alzheimer's and Dementia Questions, Answered.

    • November 14, 2023
    • Disease Prevention and Treatment
  • Judith Ford, MD

There are over five million older adults living with Alzheimer's disease or dementia in the United States. Fear of these diagnoses is very common as you age and determining if you or a loved one is experiencing normal brain aging or the onset of the disease can be a challenge. Here, ArchWell Health's Dr. Judith Ford will answer some of the most common questions seniors have about Alzheimer's and dementia.  

What age do most seniors get Alzheimer’s disease or dementia?

The majority of Alzheimer’s and dementia diagnosis happen after age 70, and the average age seniors are diagnosed with dementia is roughly 84. Early onset Alzheimer’s is when someone is diagnosed with the disease before age 65. After the age of 65, the risk of developing Alzheimer’s doubles every five years.

What is the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia?

Dementia is a general word for symptoms that impact brain function and ability to live daily life, like loss of memory and other important thinking skills. Alzheimer’s is a specific brain disease and the most common type of dementia.

How do you slow the progression of Alzheimer’s in a senior?

While there is no cure for dementia and Alzheimer's, there are treatment options that can help older adults live an independent life for longer.

Everyone responds to treatment differently, but some treatments to talk to your doctor about include: medication to slow memory loss, treatments for sleep changes, coping tips, and person-centered care that focuses on hobbies and activities that bring them joy.

Can your diet prevent dementia?

The National Institute on Aging says that there are many studies that show what we eat can impact your brain’s aging process, memory and ability to think clearly. But it’s important to note that there is no conclusive evidence eating healthy can prevent being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia. There are plenty of other reasons to maintain a healthy and balanced diet though, like preventing heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and other chronic diseases.

Is there a way to prevent Alzheimer's disease?

Scientists and research organizations are working hard to understand more about Alzheimer's and find a cure. Some studies are finding a connection between maintaining a healthy lifestyle and the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia. Researchers also have found there are lifestyle factors that can reduce the risk of developing dementia such as maintaining a low blood pressure and healthy weight, avoiding excess alcohol drinking, getting enough sleep, quitting smoking and being physical active.

What are the warning signs of Alzheimer's or dementia?

The Alzheimer's Association lists the following as 10 early warning signs of the disease:

  • Memory loss that disrupts daily life
  • Challenges in planning or solving problems
  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks
  • Confusion with time or place
  • Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
  • New problems with words in speaking or writing
  • Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
  • Decreased or poor judgement
  • Withdrawal from work or social activities
  • Changes in mood and personality

It is important to note that dementia is not just a normal part of the aging process. If you or a loved one are having severe memory and thinking issues, you should talk to your primary care doctor about a dementia screening. These screenings can be completed at any ArchWell Health center.

What is a Dementia screening?

At ArchWell Health you can complete a dementia screening and cognitive test during your primary care appointment. The test will take less than five minutes and help your doctor determine the likelihood of dementia.

Can seniors take medication for dementia?

There are no medications that cure dementia or Alzheimer's. There are some medications that could help slow down memory loss and help make dementia easier to live with. You can talk with your doctor about medications that may help with mood, behavioral issues, language issues and overall brain function.

How long can someone live with Alzheimer’s or dementia?

After being diagnosed with Alzheimer's diseases, older adults typically have a life expectancy of 8 to 10 years. This number can vary, and some individuals can live well over 10 years with the disease.

Dementia and Alzheimer’s is tracked in stages; early, middle and late. Each of these stages can last multiple years, with middle stage being the longest at 2-4 years on average.

If someone in my family had dementia, does that mean I will get dementia?

The Alzheimer’s Association says research shows having a parent, brother or sister with Alzheimer’s increases your risk of the disease but does not mean you are certain to develop Alzheimer’s. For some, genetic and environmental factors can lead to dementia and Alzheimer's running in the family.

How can I help someone living with dementia?

If you are a caregiver or friend of an older adult living with dementia or Alzheimer's you can help support them during their journey. Some practical ways to do so may be:

  • Researching the stages and development of Alzheimer’s so you are prepared as the disease worsens.
  • Finding a team of support that can help you care for your loved one.
  • Helping your loved one with Alzheimer's continue to stay active, play games and get out in the community for as long as they can.
  • Connecting with local resources like adult day care, support groups and senior centers.

If you have questions about Alzheimer's and dementia, treatment options, or prevention of the disease, call your local ArchWell Health center today to sit down with a primary care provider to discuss your concerns. 

Disclaimer: The article provides information designed to complement your personal health management. It does not provide medical advice and not meant to replace professional medical advice. Linking to other websites does not imply any endorsement of the material on such websites.

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About the Author

Judith Ford, MD, Chief Clinical Officer

Growing up with a father as a physician and a mother as a nurse, Judith Ford, a Medical Doctor (MD), has always had an interest in the medical field and caring for others. After attending college and medical school, she began practicing with a focus on taking care of older patients with complex conditions. With this mission in mind, the move to ArchWell Health was a natural fit. When not practicing medicine, she’s spending time with her husband, Chris, and her children, Sara and Jane.

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