Disabilities and Alzheimer's Disease...
You Should Know
is Alzheimer's disease?
are the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease?
is the general course of Alzheimer's disease?
other conditions produce the same symptoms?
factors for Alzheimer's disease or dementia among people
with developmental disabilities
syndrome, aging and Alzheimer's disease
there a test for Alzheimer's disease?
does someone go to be evaluated for possible Alzheimer's disease?
are the steps beyond diagnosis?
are some other concerns?
can families and caregivers of a person with a developmental disability
and Alzheimer's disease get help?
can you obtain assistance?
things to remember
caring for an older person with a developmental disability? Has this person
shown memory loss, confusion, loss of abilities at work, unexplained changes in
personality and behavior, or unexpected decline in personal skills (such as
walking, bathing, toileting, dressing, or eating)? It MAY be that some of these
changes are associated with the onset of Alzheimer's disease. They may also be
caused by some other age-associated condition that is treatable.
booklet can help you, the caregiver or the agency person, who is concerned about
Alzheimer's disease and developmental disabilities. It describes Alzheimer's
disease, how to find out if someone has it, and how it affects adults with
developmental disabilities. It also provides information on what to do and
suggests where to seek help.
disease is a slowly progressive, degenerative disorder of the brain that
eventually results in abnormal brain function and death. The disease was first
described in 1907 by a German physician, Dr. Alois Alzheimer.
disease is a disorder marked by a gradual decline in brain function that gets
worse with time. It used to be assumed that this change was a normal part of
aging that we called "senility." Some persons develop this condition
when they are as young as 40 years of age. However, the disease is most common
in persons over the age of 65. It is estimated that approximately 10 percent of
persons over 65 years of age may have Alzheimer's disease and that in persons
over the age of 85, up to 50 percent may be affected.
disease is not a normal part of the aging process. It is not "hardening of
the arteries." It is not contagious, and it is not known how it can be
prevented. While the physical changes in the brain are very similar among
different people, the behavioral and psychological symptoms that result are
complex and may differ from person to person. These symptoms lead to a form of
"dementia" which is the loss of mental skills and abilities, including
self-care capabilities. As Alzheimer's disease progresses, these losses will
result in total dependency for even the simplest activities.
symptoms of Alzheimer's disease in the general population often include:
Language problems. The person cannot find the
right word or name for a familiar person, place or object. This is not the
same as taking longer to recall a word. It is far more than the
"occasional" slip of a name that everyone experiences.
Loss of recent memory. The person may forget
that he or she just had breakfast or has left something cooking on the
stove, or may check and recheck that the bed has been made. However, recall
of events from the distant past is often unaffected.
Loss of a sense of time and place. The person
may become more and more confused about what day it is, or forget the route
to well-known places.
Decline in activities of daily living. The
person may exhibit an unexplained loss of activities of daily living (ADL)
skills. What once was an easy task for the person may now be difficult.
Personality changes. These may be so slight
that, at first, they are difficult to notice. Some people become more quiet
and withdrawn. In other cases, they may become more and more restless. Some
persons may start to get angry over little things or have sudden changes of
mood for no apparent reason.
First (or onset stage):
symptoms often appear very gradually. There may be some minimum memory loss,
particularly of recent events. The individual may experience difficulty in
finding the right words to use during casual conversations. Work performance may
begin to deteriorate and changes in behavior may start to become obvious. These
changes may last for a period of up to five years.
Second (or progressive stage):
symptoms noted during the onset stage now become more obvious. There may be
distinct problems with language abilities--this is typically the most obvious
sign of movement to this stage. Persons affected may have difficulty naming
objects or with maintaining a logical conversation. They may also have
difficulty understanding directions or instructions. They often become easily
disoriented with regard to what day it is (time), where they are (place), and
who they are with (person). Confusion and the resulting frustration are often
evident. Memory losses become even more pronounced. They may also begin to
experience loss of self-care skills, including the ability to use the toilet
(incontinence). Severe changes in personality may begin to become obvious, and
their social behavior may be marked by suspiciousness (paranoia) and delusions.
These changes may last for up to about twelve years.
Third (or terminal stage):
affected now experience substantial dysfunction. Basic skills such as eating or
drinking are forgotten. Because of eating problems, many persons may experience
a substantial loss of body weight (up to 20-30 percent). They may eventually
lose their ability to maintain balance and walk. Their ability to recognize
other persons and their environment is gone. Both long- and short-term memories
are lost. At this stage, persons affected require complete 24-hour care and
often become bedridden and inactive. Because of this, they are at increased risk
for any infection, especially pneumonia, and consequently are far more likely to
die. These changes, leading to death, may last for three or more years.
There are numerous other disorders or conditions that result in symptoms similar
to those of Alzheimer's disease. Many of these conditions are treatable. It is
therefore crucial to determine the cause of the symptoms and not assume they are
always due to Alzheimer's disease. If a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease is
assumed without adequate evaluation, the adult with a treatable condition may be
deprived of remedies that could help return him or her to normal function. A
variety of psychosocial and medical procedures must be used to rule out
associated disorders as the cause of personality or behavior changes that
otherwise could be mistakenly attributed to Alzheimer's disease. It must not be
assumed that someone has Alzheimer's disease because he or she exhibits some
symptoms of the disease. Other common causes of these symptoms include: stroke,
depression, medication reactions, thyroid disease, nutritional deficiencies,
brain tumors, head trauma, subdural hematoma, and normal pressure hydrocephalus.
Although Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia, it is only
one of many causes. There are also "related disorders" that cause
various forms of dementia. These include multi-infarct dementia (a cortical
dementia) and conditions like Huntington's disease, Parkinson's disease, and
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (which are sub-cortical dementias). There are also
"associated disorders," such as thyroid abnormalities, arthritis,
hearing loss, temperature sensitivity and sleep pattern changes, that may occur
at the same time as Alzheimer's disease but which are not caused by Alzheimer's
disease. These conditions may be reversible or treatable. They result in
dementia-like symptoms but do not actually cause the permanent brain changes
that result in dementia.
Risk factors for Alzheimer's disease or dementia
among people with developmental disabilities
"Developmental disabilities" describe mental and physical disabilities that occur before age 22, impede normal growth and development, and which continue into old age. Mental retardation, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, autism, and certain physical and neurological impairments are examples of various categories of developmental disabilities. Most adults with a developmental disability are at the same risk for Alzheimer's disease (or other forms of dementia) as are individuals in the general population. However, there are individuals with a developmental disability who are at greater risk of developing the disease when the following are present:
If the individual is over 40 years of age and
has Down syndrome.
If the individual has had some form of head
injury, especially severe or multiple injuries.
If the individual has a history of Alzheimer's
disease in his or her family.
presence of these factors does not necessarily mean that Alzheimer's disease (or
some other form of dementia) will occur. However, the presence of one or more of
these risks should alert the care provider to the increased probability of the
person with a developmental disability developing this disease. When there is
suspicion about the presence of Alzheimer's disease, medical follow-up must be
done to ensure a proper differential diagnosis. Studies at the New York State
Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities have shown that the
rate of occurrence of Alzheimer's disease among persons with a developmental
disability appears to be about 2 to 3 percent of adults age 40 and older. People
with Down syndrome make up about 60 percent of the adults with mental
retardation who show signs of probable Alzheimer's disease.
L. Over the last two years Stephanie L. has lost a great deal of her functioning
ability. Stephanie L., who is 54 years old and has Down syndrome, now has
trouble with feeding, toileting, dressing and communicating--things she could do
quite well just a while ago. The staff at the home where she lives are doing a
remarkable job in providing the hands-on care that she now requires and have
drawn upon a variety of community resources to help her. They have also taken
special training offered by the local Alzheimer's Association and have helped
her get special supports from a local health adult day program. Her case manager
has spoken with several private care agencies and is exploring the use of a
personal care aide. The personal care aide would be used to provide
individualized attention to Stephanie L. and offer some respite for the staff
and other individuals living in her home. Other support services, like the local
Alzheimer's support group and the local hospice, are being used to help maintain
Stephanie L. in her home for as long as possible.
G. Not long ago, Francis G., who is 68, was employed in a sheltered workshop. As
a young adult he was diagnosed with moderate mental retardation. Throughout most
of his life he was productive, independent, and very aware of his personal
appearance and how he conducted himself in public. He learned of a program at
the community senior center a couple of years ago, began attending two days a
week and then decided to participate daily. Not long after he became a regular
participant, his behavior became erratic and he began losing a sense of time and
place. He became incontinent, and his appearance and personal care deteriorated.
His temperament became offensive. He would not agree to do most of the things he
was asked to do. He became forgetful, angry, and difficult around the other
people at the center and the staff. Any change in schedule brought complaints.
His abilities and sense of reality deteriorated rapidly. Eventually, he could no
longer attend the senior center, nor live with his relatives, and was admitted
to a local nursing home to meet his increasing physical needs.
A woman with Down syndrome, Marion B. was until recently very sociable, aware of
herself, and articulate in conversation. Her sense of humor, insight, and
independent spirit rapidly vanished within two years after she reached age 59.
The family with whom she lived and the staff at the day program she attended
noted ever-increasing confusion and loss of self-care abilities. Her sleep
pattern changed, and she began to stay awake all night. She tried to eat waste,
and began talking to her own image in the mirror, insisting it was
"Susie," an old friend. In a short time, she could no longer live in
the family home, which had been hers for ten years, and had to move to a group
home. Even this was not enough to meet her now intense need for personal care,
and soon she was admitted to the Alzheimer's disease care wing of a community
syndrome, aging and Alzheimer's disease
with Down syndrome may experience health problems as they age that are different
from those experienced by older persons in the general population. The presence
of extra genetic material found among persons with Down syndrome may lead to
abnormalities in the immune system and a higher susceptibility to leukemia,
seizures, cataracts, respiratory illness, and heart conditions. Persons with
Down syndrome also experience premature aging--that is, they show physical
changes related to aging some 20 to 30 years ahead of persons of the same age in
the general population.
increased age, persons with Down syndrome may experience "typical"
hearing loss and vision changes that are "expected to accompany being
older," but will do so 20 to 30 years before other persons in the general
population. Vision problems may be mostly due to cataracts. There may also be
problems with motor abilities and changes in the skin, nerve, muscle, digestive,
and urinary systems.
to age peers, people with Down syndrome have higher rates of Alzheimer's
disease. This may be another example of age-related changes occurring earlier in
persons with Down syndrome than would be expected in persons in the general
population. Adults with Down syndrome are often in their mid to late 40s or
early 50s when symptoms may first appear, while symptoms first appear in persons
in the general population beginning in the late 60s. Although about 20 to 40
percent of adults with Down syndrome show the behavioral symptoms of dementia,
upon autopsy nearly all older adults with Down syndrome show the brain changes
associated with Alzheimer's dementia.
progression of the disease takes, on the average, about eight years--somewhat
less time than among persons in the general population. Men and women seem to be
symptoms of the disease may be expressed differently among adults with Down
syndrome. For example, at the early stage of the disease, memory loss is not
always noted, and not all symptoms ordinarily associated with Alzheimer's
disease will occur. Generally, changes in activities of daily living skills are
noted, and there may be the onset of seizures when there had been no seizures in
the past. Cognitive changes may also be present, but they are often not readily
apparent or they may be ignored because of limitations in the individual's
general functional level.
there a test for Alzheimer's disease?
no single diagnostic test for Alzheimer's disease. If the presence of
Alzheimer's disease is suspected, a complete physical examination and more
frequent medical, neurological, and psychological evaluations are strongly
recommended to establish the progressive nature of the symptoms, particularly
for adults with a developmental disability. A "definitive" diagnosis
can only be made at the time of autopsy. The numerous tests and evaluation
procedures will result in a "possible" or "probable"
diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease. To make a probable diagnosis of Alzheimer's
disease, it is necessary to observe a well-documented progression of symptoms
and rule out any other possible conditions or disorders. To help secure such a
probable diagnosis, complete evaluations must be performed periodically. Such
evaluations or tests are necessary to rule out conditions that are not
Alzheimer's disease, or are reversible forms of dementia. A complete evaluation
detailed medical history, provided by a family member, caregiver or someone
else well acquainted with the individual. This is the best way to determine
accurately whether or not there has been progressive deterioration and
personality changes, problems with memory, and difficulty with daily
activities. As much as possible, the person should be involved in this
process and asked what he or she feels is changing
thorough physical and neurologic examination, including the testing of
sensory-motor systems, to rule out other disorders.
"mental status test" to evaluate orientation, attention, recent
recall and the ability to calculate, read, write, name, copy drawing,
repeat, understand and make judgments. Mental status evaluations may not be
useful with individuals with preexisting cognitive limitations, such as
severe mental retardation. Because of this, mental status examinations need
to take into account the individual's past history and abilities and should
never be the sole clinical assessment.
psychiatric assessment to rule out the presence of a psychiatric disorder,
testing to measure a variety of functions that include memory, orientation,
language skills, intellectual abilities, and perception.
laboratory tests, including blood work, health exams, such as urinalysis,
chest x-ray, electroencephalography (EEG), and electrocardiography (EKG), as
well as certain specialized tests as deemed appropriate. Imaging techniques,
such as CT (computerized axial tomography) and MRI (magnetic resonance
imaging), can be useful in showing progressive brain atrophy and helping to
rule out other selected dementias. However, these techniques are costly and
are mostly used in research.
the above assessments apply to most people with a developmental disability who
may be suspected of having Alzheimer's disease, the sole use of mental status
and psychiatric assessments is inappropriate, especially for persons with severe
mental retardation. It is recommended that, at minimum, annual or more frequent
evaluations and measures be used to look for changes in existing skills.
does someone go to be evaluated for possible Alzheimer's disease?
place to start is with the person's physician. A neurologist, geriatrician, or
an internist can also be a valuable resource. States may have specialized
centers for the evaluation and treatment of people with Alzheimer's disease.
These centers may provide geriatric evaluations and assessment procedures plus
other services. States may also have specialized services for people with
developmental disabilities who are aging. These may include special clinics of
local mental retardation, mental health or aging agencies, and university
affiliated programs in developmental disabilities. To find Alzheimer's disease
services in your area, contact the city or county health department, local
mental health/mental retardation centers, hospitals, area agency on aging or the
information and referral service that many cities provide through the United Way
or other organizations. You may also be able to locate these services by looking
in the telephone book under "Health" or "Social" Services.
These same resources may also be able to refer you to any state or community
programs or clinics which specialize in services to older people with
are the steps beyond diagnosis?
suspicion of Alzheimer's disease has been clinically confirmed, the person's
family, caregiver, or paid providers may need to make changes in the person's
daily routine. First and foremost, the person must feel safe and secure in his
or her environment. As a result of the complications associated with Alzheimer's
disease, what may have been comfortable and familiar for the individual will
become unrecognizable and result in unpredictable behavior. For example, some
persons may have changes in behavior that make them seem suspicious and
delusional. To help with the changes in behavior, consider the following:
maintaining abilities, particularly those affecting dignity (e.g.,
rather than trying to teach new skills.
changes in environment and daily routine to an absolute minimum.
routines and reduce choices to minimize feelings of anxiety and frustration.
patience and redirection, keep verbal requests simple, and provide general
self-awareness by using reminiscing and talking about past experiences, when
person maintain his or her orientation by naming events for the day,
him or her of the day, time and place, and repeating the names of others around him or
her. Try not to "force" him or her back to your reality, but also don't allow a move into
a delusion that you may be inadvertently reinforcing.
the person daily, even when there is no response.
understand the words and symbols the person is using in communicating. Be
and don't try to force the person to understand your means of communicating; adapt to his or hers.
appropriate foods and liquids to maintain nutrition and hydration.
to suspicions and delusions with reassurance.
physician about stopping nonessential medications and, when appropriate,
responsibility for giving the person his or her needed medications.
toileting accidents by establishing a toileting routine.
affection and protection by a quiet voice and use touch for reassurance and
with changes in program practices, consider the following:
familiar and safe environment, and provide closer supervision to minimize
present level of independence by increasing staff supervision, prompts, and
the individual's program or support plan to anticipate changing activities
of daily living
(ADLs) and supervision needs.
and document increased episodes of confusion, disorientation, or memory
to become more prepared as they repeat in the future. Continue assessments for mobility,
safety, and ADL needs.
staff, family members, and caregivers close to the person of changes and
in the plan of care.
identify "triggers" that result in inappro-priate or dangerous
behavior and try to
minimize the likelihood that they will occur in the future.
some other concerns?
concerns may include how to help staff adapt programs and services to changes
that result from Alzheimer's disease, especially how to serve that person with
dignity, how to help adults with possible Alzheimer's disease "age in
place," and how to prevent or defer changes in residence. In some programs,
particularly those governed by state regulations requiring active treatment,
staff may need to emphasize a different approach to care. The program plan
should be adapted to reflect the behavioral and physical changes the persons may
experience that result from the various stages of the disease. Program
philosophies that emphasize choice-making may need to be reevaluated, because
making choices can be very confusing and frustrating for someone with
Alzheimer's disease. As the disease progresses, staff need to be prepared to
adapt treatment practices to the changing needs of the individual with probable
Alzheimer's disease. These adaptations should reflect a knowledge of the course
of Alzheimer's disease and the potential for diminishing abilities among
self-care, communication, and orientation skills. A balance should be maintained
between compensating for loss of skills and maintaining development. Early signs
and symptoms of Alzheimer's disease do not necessarily warrant changes of a
program or residence, particularly if the older adult is already used to
attending or living in a familiar place. The adult should be allowed to
"age in place" with dignity and respect. Many adaptations can be made
to the person's program or home environment to make it safe and practical.
Modifications in activities and supervision may be necessary. Many caregivers
will continue to provide care no matter how difficult it is. However, with the
advanced progression of the disease, particularly when there is total loss of
self-care skills and mental abilities, some caregivers or staff may be faced
with the difficult decision of whether or not to accept admission to a facility
that can provide appropriate long-term care. The need to change residence can be
reduced by providing supports greater than those already being provided to the
individual. Providing such supports should always be considered prior to a
change in the person's residence. Those at jeopardy of having to change
residence as the disease progresses include persons who are living:
caregiver who may be unable to continue supervision and supports on his or her
unless he or she receives additional assistance.
with a spouse or friend and who may be at risk for personal injury due to memory
loss, disorientation, and personal skill deterioration.
residence where the person's needs have substantially changed due to an
for supervision and nursing care, the individual's behavior has a marked negative effect upon
others in the residence, or the individual's overall deteriorating condition transcends the level of
care which can be provided in the residence.
families and caregivers of a person with a developmental disability
and Alzheimer's disease get help?
family member, you may need to plan for future care in a residential setting
that is equipped to provide for a person with a developmental disability who has
Alzheimer's disease. However, until that time, many things can be done to
provide in-home supports. Many family members and caregivers of an adult with a
developmental disability have provided a lifetime of affection, support, and
care while watching the individual progress and become more independent. It is
particularly difficult for a family member or caregiver to watch his or her
relative lose skills associated with the onset of Alzheimer's disease.
Therefore, it is very important to obtain services and supports during this
difficult time. Certain specific services may be helpful in supporting the care
that you are providing:
services - These include having a homemaker assist in the home or having a
provide personal care to the adult. It may also include home-delivered meals, friendly visiting, and the
services of a senior companion. For the names of agencies that provide home care services in your
community, call your local area agency on aging or look in the yellow pages of your telephone directory
(generally under "Home Health Services").
care - Available in many communities, this program may offer a brief respite
and an opportunity for the adult to become involved in different day activities. For names and locations of
adult day care programs in your community, call your local area agency on aging, your county health
department, the local chapter of The Arc or other disability agency, or look in the yellow pages of your
telephone directory (generally under "Day Care Centers-Adult" or "Elderly Person Services").
or weekend respite - Either in the home or at another setting, respite offers a
the caregiver to take a vacation or other short break from caregiving. For names of agencies that
provide respite services in your community, call your area agency on aging, the local or state mental
retardation agency, local chapter of The Arc or other disability agency, or look in the yellow pages
of your telephone directory (generally under "Social and Human Services").
This includes special support services in the home or within a specialized
during the last six months of life. Hospice services are for persons who are terminally ill as well
as for their caregivers. For the name of the hospice in your community, contact your local health
department or look in the yellow pages of your telephone directory (generally under "Hospices").
or legal aid - This includes aid in arranging for payment for care and help in
concerns, such as wills and trusts. For information on how to obtain such aid, consult your local
area agency on aging, local chapter of The Arc, or other local disability agency.
support groups - These include counseling or other group supports with persons
in a similar
situation. For information on how to obtain such aid, consult your local Alzheimer's Association or
local area agency on aging.
agencies on aging or local senior services agencies maintain special caregiver
assistance programs. Some of these include special supports for parents with a
son or daughter with a developmental disability. These programs can help you
obtain specialized in-home services and other supports. To receive more
information regarding any of these services, call your local area agency on
aging or local chapter of The Arc.
If you are a staff member providing residential or day services for an individual with a developmental disability whom you suspect may be showing symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, you can turn to your agency for guidance and assistance. You can also call your local area agency on aging, local office of your state mental retardation and developmental disabilities agency, local chapter of The Arc, local Alzheimer's Association, or any local Alzheimer's disease or dementia assistance program or service for advice.
If you are providing care to an individual with Alzheimer's disease, you may want to participate in a support or educational group. These groups are for people in similar caregiving situations who meet regularly to share experiences and advice with each other and learn about resources available to them. To find out about support and educational groups and related resources in your area, call your local area agency on aging, mental retardation state agency, local chapter of The Arc or other disability agency, local Alzheimer's Association, or look in the yellow pages of your telephone directory (generally under "Social and Human Services") or in the white pages business listings.
you obtain assistance?
for someone with a developmental disability who may have Alzheimer's disease can
be a long and difficult task. There are many helpful resources that can assist
families and other caregivers of people with Alzheimer's disease. If you need
help or just want to learn more about Alzheimer's disease, contact:
Alzheimer's Association. This is the only national voluntary organization
dedicated to conquering Alzheimer's disease through research and by providing
education and support to people with Alzheimer's disease, their families and
caregivers. The Alzheimer's Association has local chapters throughout the United
States, plus produces a wide-range of materials on this disease. To locate the
nearest local chapter, or to get more information or receive materials, contact
the association at 1-800-272-3900. You can also write the Alzheimer's
Association at 919 North Michigan Ave., Suite 1000, Chicago, Illinois
agency on aging. In some communities, this agency may be called by a different
name, such as office or department for senior citizen affairs or senior
services. Look for the telephone number in your local telephone directory. Most
area agencies on aging also issue a community resource directory which lists
many Alzheimer's disease assistance resources.
state office or agency on aging. These are also called state units on aging (SUAs).
Contact your SUA and explain your situation and ask for suggestions. Don't
forget to ask for the number of your area agency on aging. To contact your state
aging agency look in the state government listings of your local telephone
Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center (ADEAR). Operated by the
National Institute on Aging, the ADEAR can provide some helpful information
through its variety of publications. You can write the Center at P.O. Box 8250,
Silver Spring, MD 20907-8250 or call 1-800-438-4380.
is the country's largest voluntary organization committed to the welfare of all
children and adults with mental retardation and their families. The Arc has
chapters throughout the United States and provides publications and other useful
information. You can write The Arc at 1010 Wayne Avenue, Suite 650, Silver
Spring, Maryland 20910. (301) 565-3842. Email: email@example.com
terms . . .
of daily living (ADL) - routine activities engaged in during the course of the
such as washing, grooming, dressing, eating and cooking.
associated disorders - conditions that are present at the same time.
Alzheimer's disease - a progressive neurodegenerative disease characterized by
function and death of nerve cells in several areas of the brain, leading to loss of cognitive function
such as memory and language.
autopsy for Alzheimer's disease - gross and microscopic examinations of brain
death to confirm the clinical diagnosis.
cataracts - a clouding of the lens of the eye which blurs vision.
cognitive changes - changes in thinking abilities (such as reasoning).
cortical dementia - dementia associated with impairment of that part of the
brain that affects
memory, attention, reasoning, and abstract thinking.
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease - a neurological disease, lasting about three years,
that leads to rapid loss
of memory, speech and writing skills, reasoning abilities, and a majority of bodily functions prior to death.
definite Alzheimer's disease - a level of diagnosis that is supported by evidence of neurological
changes present at autopsy.
delusions - beliefs maintained even when they are contrary to truth.
dementia - widespread loss of mental skills and abilities of such severity that
capability to care
for oneself is lost.
developmental disability - any mental or physical functional impairment that
occurs before age 22,
impedes normal growth and development, and which continues into old age.
differential diagnosis - clinical evaluation of possible causes of dementia to
rule out all other factors
before settling on Alzheimer's disease.
Down syndrome - a chromosomal abnormality of chromosome 21 associated with mental retardation.
functional capabilities - what a person is able to do.
head injury - an impact to the head which causes injury to the brain and results
in long term damage
hospice - a philosophy of care that focuses on relief of symptoms, pain control,
providing a variety of supports through the period of dying.
Huntington's disease - a genetically linked neurological disease that leads to
loss of movement in the
face, arms and legs, loss of speech and use of the brain and leads eventually to dementia.
incontinence - inability to control bowel and bladder functions.
leukemia- a fatal disease of the white blood cells and blood-forming organs.
multi-infarct dementia - dementia due to loss of blood supply in the brain after a series of small strokes.
hydrocephalus - enlargement of the head due to the accumulation of fluid around the brain.
paranoia - behavior characterized by extreme suspiciousness and delusions.
Parkinson's disease - a neurological disease that leads to tremors, muscle
rigidity, and slowing of
all body motions.
possible Alzheimer's disease - a level of diagnosis that is supported, but with
a degree of uncertainty,
by the person's medical history, and by neurologic, psychiatric, and clinical examinations, neuropsychological
tests, and laboratory studies.
premature aging - physical changes related to aging occurring ahead of what
would be normally expected
for a person's chronological age.
probable Alzheimer's disease - a level of diagnosis that is supported with
relative certainty by the
progressive deterioration of specific cognitive functions, motor skills, and perception, impaired activities
of daily living and altered patterns of behavior, family history of similar problems, and laboratory findings
of physical changes.
related disorders - conditions that are similar in nature to the main condition
but occur for a different reason.
sensory-motor - those aspects of movement and sensation.
subcortical dementia - dementia associated with impairment of the lower part of
the brain that affects
speed of motor and mental processes.
subdural hematoma - a hemorrhage under the dura or membrane covering the brain
and spinal cord.
helpful resources . . .
Caring for Alzheimer's Patients: Caregivers Practical Help. New York State Office for the Aging, 2 Empire State Plaza, Albany, NY 12223
Alzheimer's Disease and Down Syndrome (Fast Facts on Aging #1). The University of Missouri-Kansas City Institute for Human Development, 2220 Holmes Street, 3rd Floor, Kansas City, MO 64108-2676
Alzheimer's Disease: A Family Survival Guide. Alzheimer's Disease Research, 15825 Shady Grove Road, Suite 140, Rockville, MD 20850
Alzheimer's Disease: A Family Information Handbook. Health and Welfare Canada, c/o Alzheimer Society of Canada, 185 Bloor Street East, Suite 222, Toronto, Ontario M4W 3J3 Canada; (416) 927-1580
Alzheimer's Disease - A Special Report. Harvard Medical School, Health Publications Group, Department ALZ, P.O. Box 380, Boston, MA 02117
A Path for Caregivers. American Association of Retired Persons, 601 E Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20049
Caring for the Alzheimer's Patient at Home: Tips for Coping. Alzheimer's Disease Research, 15825 Shady Grove Road, Suite 140, Rockville, MD 20850
The 36-Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for Persons with Alzheimer's Disease, Related Dementing Illnesses and Memory Loss in Later Life. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD 21218
Practice Guidelines for the Clinical Assessment and Care Management of Alzheimer Disease and Other Dementia Among Adults with Mental Retardation. American Association on Mental Retardation, 444 North Capitol Street, N.W., Suite 846, Washington, DC 20001-1570
Down's syndrome and Alzheimer's disease. (1994) Down's Syndrome Association, 155 Mitcham Road, London SW17 9PG, England
Q&A: Alzheimer's disease and people with mental retardation. (1995) The
Arc,1010 Wayne Ave., Suite 650, Silver Spring, MD 20910
things to remember. . .
disease is a slowly progressive degenerative disease that eventually results in
It is not part of normal aging.
of Alzheimer's disease include losses in language, recent memory, orientation,
of daily living, and changes in personality.
conditions that are treatable produce symptoms that are similar to Alzheimer's
It is important for adults showing signs of dementia (loss of mental disabilities) to have a complete
with a developmental disability are at greater risk for Alzheimer's disease if
they are older
than 40 and have Down syndrome or come from a family with a history of Alzheimer's disease.
with Down syndrome appear to age more rapidly than other persons in the general
population and thus are at greater risk for Alzheimer's disease than are peers of similar age.
Although only some 20 to 40 percent of adults over age 45 show the behavioral
with symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, nearly all show the brain changes associated with Alzheimer's disease at death.
complete evaluation and several periodic reviews of behavioral changes are
necessary to develop
a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease. These should include, at minimum, a
comprehensive history, physical, neurologic and neuropsychiatric assessments,
and a mental status exam.
who have Alzheimer's disease may be helped by care management programs. These
maintain the person's highest level of functioning.
minimize confusion and agitation caused by dementia, changes in the residence
and other familiar
activities should be avoided.
family and care providers should adapt the plan of care to reflect the person's
and focus on the person's remaining strengths.
services are available to support the care that staff and family provide to an
Alzheimer's disease, including home care, adult day care, overnight and weekend respite, hospice, financial and legal aid, and family support groups.
booklet may be copied or otherwise reproduced with proper citation.
by the Workgroup on Alzheimer's Disease and Developmental Disabilities and the
New York Caregiver Assistance Project in Aging and Developmental Disabilities
(New York State Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities) and
published by The Arc of the United States.
provided by grants #90-AM-0679 from the U.S. Administration on Aging and #R13
AG/HD12353-01 from the U.S. National Institute on Aging (Matthew P. Janicki,
Ph.D., Project Director).
copies of this book contact:
3300 Pleasant Valley Lane, Suite C
Arlington, TX 76015
to The Arc's Q&A Page. Return
to The Arc's Home Page.