The Alzheimer’s Association reports that someone in the United States is diagnosed with the disease every 66 seconds.
At this rate, experts are working to combat the disease that kills one in every three senior citizens.
The Association also reports that Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death.
As research advances, experts are diagnosing more cases and helping families to understand what a loved one is dealing with.
“Its really important that we get across to the families and to people who take care of them what they can do to help. The quality of life is what we are trying to preserve,” Jillian Newlins, a Staffing Coordinator and Alzheimer’s Training Instructor at Home Instead Senior Care, said.
Researchers found that the disease may be linked to genetics.
Dr. Mariecken Fowler, Neurologist, said there are a few proteins that can be tested to detect the disease, but experts have not found a way to stop the disease from developing further.
“A lot of the research is focused on not only the genetics but is there a blood test or a spinal fluid test that will allow us to diagnose people 10, 20 [or] 30 years before they have the disease. [This is] before the abnormal proteins are causing damage in the brain. [We hope] to prevent those proteins from building up,” said Dr. Fowler.
Dr. Fowler said it’s actually much more complex. Doctors would have to look for the disease several years before the patient even shows signs of developing the disease.
“We are recognizing it more. Families are [also] aware that its possible that someone can have Alzheimer’s at a young age,” Dr. Fowler said.
Dr. Fowler said one thing that helps is people coming forward as soon as they have any worries about memory loss.
“We basically get a baseline snapshot where their memory is [through] cognition. [We will do a] baseline MRI, and then if there [are] anymore changes noticed over time [throughout] the next few years. I can compare them and catch things a little earlier,” Dr. Fowler said.
If a patient is diagnosed with Dementia, Fowler said she believes it’s critical to find out if it is Alzheimer’s or another form of Dementia.
“It’s very important to make sure you get to a specialist that can treat and look into other possibilities that are affecting your memory. [This is] to be sure you get the diagnosis appropriately, and then [you] can get put on the appropriate medication.” Dr. Fowler said.
There are two main medicines doctors are prescribing for Alzheimer’s. These medicines work to slow down the symptoms and progress, but they are not able to reverse or stop the disease from spreading completely.
“There’s a lot of denial when it comes to people with Alzheimer’s disease. It’s because you don’t want to believe that. It’s a terrible disease to have, and I feel for everyone who has to go through that,” Newlins said.
Just being able to recognize the disease early-on has been a huge step.
Experts said they hope the research continues to advance in order to combat the disease.