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By Jennifer Bradley, Staff Writer
Researchers are also pursuing the
development of a blood test to screen for an individual
with Alzheimer’s by looking for certain proteins in the
blood called biomarkers. The goal of a successful
biomarker test would enable doctors to detect
Alzheimer’s before the symptoms appear.
Another example of an Alzheimer’s screener is an eye
test that would act as a diagnostic tool.
Early Treatment Counts
For someone with Alzheimer’s, changes
have occurred in their brain possibly even 20 years
prior to diagnosis. With an early diagnosis, or
even pre-diagnosis, as researchers are hoping to have in
the next decade, treatment options can be tailored to a
more preventive focus.
In the early stages of Alzheimer’s, a
loved one may experience increased irritability,
depression or anxiety. These typically are the result of
increased confusion and memory loss, but yet the ability
to know they can’t focus as well. For
behavioral-type symptoms, there are medications
available to assist. They can be targeted to a specific
symptom of the disease. However, looking for reasons
behind the behavior and addressing those may be just as
successful for a caregiver.
Many times, the person is overwhelmed,
by a setting or even a conversation they just can’t
participate in at the level they used to. A loved one
will benefit greatly by managing these “trigger”
situations. Find out what makes a loved one “tick” so to
speak, and avoid those at all costs. Between fear, and
then mental and physical fatigue, the wrong setting can
set a person into another door of frustration. A calm,
friendly environment is usually the best medicine for
someone with Alzheimer’s, even in the early days.
For the physical symptoms of memory
loss, confusion and problems with thinking/reasoning,
medication is the current mainstay. Two types are
approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration:
cholinesterase inhibitors (Aricept, Exelon, etc.) and
memantine (Namenda). Current medications can’t stop the
progression of the disease, but can lessen or stabilize
the symptoms for a period of time in some people.
Many caregivers report frustration with the current
medications, feeling that they are doing little or
nothing to help their loved ones, especially over a
period of time when the disease continues to progress
despite the medication.
The other treatment measure for early
Alzheimer’s comes in the form of sleep management. A
loved one with this condition will most likely have a
change in sleep patterns and difficulty with sleep.
While scientists still do not understand why, they do
know the “what.” People tend to wake up more and stay
awake longer during the night. Brain wave studies show a
decrease in dreaming and non-dreaming sleep stages.