A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s
|My father has just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. What will happen to him? Will he have to be put in an institution? Will he be dangerous? Is he going to die soon?|
Getting the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is often seen as the kiss of death. Nowadays, the emphasis is on making the diagnosis as early as possible. Memory failure in Alzheimer’s disease is the same as heart failure in heart disease. It's a disability that if picked up early can be treated symptomatically with a realistic hope of stabilising it and maximising the individual’s quality of life and functioning. As in the case of heart disease, treatment does not alter the disease process but can improve symptoms. Most patients with early Alzheimer’s can live a very full and fulfilling life. Long-term care and insitutionalisation occurs only in the later stages of the disease and with improved home care packages, may not be necessary in many cases. An individual with Alzheimer’s disease can live an average of 10 years from the time of diagnosis to death and probably longer if the diagnosis is made earlier. The task for all of us is to try to ensure that the quality of life of individuals with Alzheimer’s can be improved across this time line. Sometimes people with Alzheimer’s can pose a risk to themselves if they continue to drive and are unsafe. They can also pose risks at home or outside the home due to poor safety awareness eg. leaving the gas on because of their memory loss. All of these risks can be managed with appropriate advice, education and supervision. Less frequently, people with Alzheimer’s disease in the middle and late stage, can develop aggression and pose risks to other people or carers. These risks can also be managed by appropriate interventions and care input.