Alzheimer's disease is a common form of dementia that impacts brain areas responsible for memory, speech, concentration, and thought functions. Explore the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for Alzheimer's. Plus, learn how online therapy can support people with this condition and their caregivers.
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Medically Reviewed By: Melissa Guarnaccia, LCSW
Alzheimer’s Disease - What Is It?
Alzheimer's is a degenerative condition that gradually or rapidly degenerates the brain, causing mental and cognitive declines. It is the most common cause of dementia and may start with confusion or forgetfulness, progressing to the point that an individual may struggle to remember the names or faces of friends and loved ones.
Over time, friends and family members may notice how the disease causes changes in the person's demeanor and behavior. These changes can be upsetting for loved ones to watch and distressing for those living with the condition. The below articles discuss the ins and outs of living with Alzheimer's, being a caregiver for someone with dementia, and how to find support if you believe you may have this condition.
What Are The Risk Factors For Alzheimer's?
Because Alzheimer's is a genetic condition, those with a close or distant relative are often more likely to develop it themselves. Although a genetic predisposition is one of the primary risk factors, others may include head trauma, air pollution, poor sleeping patterns, and excessive alcohol consumption. Old age is the primary risk factor for Alzheimer's.
Symptoms Of Memory Loss Due To Alzheimer's
One of the most common symptoms of Alzheimer's is confusion or memory loss. As the disease progresses, it may begin to impact various areas of a person's life. Below are a few memory-related symptoms one may experience:
- Asking the same questions repeatedly without recognizing it
- Struggling to recall important dates, appointments, or obligations
- Forgetting the names or faces of friends and loved ones
- Misplacing objects
- Getting lost in places one has visited many times
- Forgetting the words for common everyday objects
The memory loss symptoms of Alzheimer's can be troubling to the individual experiencing them and their loved ones. In addition, memory loss can lead to frustration, potentially causing anxiety and depression.
What Treatments Are Available For Alzheimer's?
At the beginning of Alzheimer's progression, an individual may function independently without the assistance of family members or medical aid for an extended period. However, as time passes, it can be vital for those with Alzheimer's to seek medical care for their condition. Some medical professionals specialize in the disease and may be more equipped to notice changes in the person's mental and physical states. These doctors can help the individual stay healthy throughout the rest of their life.
Some medications may also slow down the progression of Alzheimer's. These medications and medical interventions can temporarily relieve symptoms, helping the individual with the disease live a healthier, more productive life. However, Alzheimer's is a progressive disease and doesn't have a cure. Despite the benefits of medications, they may be best used in conjunction with other interventions to positively impact the affected individual. Consult a doctor before starting, changing, or stopping any medication or medical intervention.
How Does Alzheimer's Disease Impact Mental Health?
Alzheimer's can impact all parts of an individual's life, including mental health. It may be frustrating or cause grief when one forgets one's loved ones or favorite memories. In addition, the mental symptoms of Alzheimer's can cause a person to experience a loss of control, which may be difficult. Below are a few common co-occurring mental health symptoms that may occur with Alzheimer's:
- A prolonged low mood
- Social isolation
- Erratic mood shifts
- Paranoia or lack of trust in others
- Difficulty sleeping or changes in sleeping patterns
- Inappropriate public behavior
Navigating Alzheimer's Disease With Therapy
Those with an Alzheimer's diagnosis may experience various emotional and physical symptoms that could benefit from therapy. In addition, caregivers of those with dementia may also benefit from therapy. A therapist can help either of these individuals process and work through their emotions healthily and find coping skills for moving forward.
Someone struggling with memory loss may struggle to safely visit the physical location of a therapist, making it challenging to attend in-person therapy. However, with an online therapy platform like BetterHelp, they can speak to a therapist from their home without traveling. Additionally, caregivers who can't take much time away for appointments may benefit from online sessions, as they can participate independently. Online platforms often offer phone, video, and chat session options.
Whether you're living with Alzheimer's or caring for someone with one of these conditions, research has shown that online therapy may be beneficial. For example, one study found that family caregivers of people with dementia who participated in an online intervention experienced a reduction in symptoms of anxiety and depression. Researchers also noted that online therapy options can keep mental healthcare services for family caregivers affordable and accessible.
Living with a condition like Alzheimer's can present various difficulties and impact multiple areas of a person's life. Coping with these challenges may prove more complex when considering the difficult symptoms of dementia. Further, when you have a loved one with Alzheimer's or are a caregiver for someone with the condition, it can cause mental burnout. You might not have anyone to talk to about your experiences. Whether you live with Alzheimer's or want to talk about caregiving, consider contacting a therapist online or in your area for further compassionate support and guidance. You're not alone, and support is available.