A Cure for Alzheimer's
In February of 2000, I lost my grandmother to Alzheimer's disease. She was diagnosed with the disease just less than two years prior to her death. Throughout that time, I watched changes in my grandmother that made her seem like an entirely different woman to me. She gradually began losing her short-term memory and we began to see signs of her long-term memory degrading too. It began to get harder and harder to take her out into public without being afraid of what would happen next. Her emotions would fluctuate with the changing of each minute it seemed. Physically she became weaker and weaker and would often scare us with falling while she would be walking. Eventually she had to be moved into the extended care unit of our local hospital because my grandfather could no longer handle taking care of her alone. The hardest part of it all was letting other people know what was wrong. For a while there were no physical signs that there was anything wrong with her. When we would be at a restaurant and she would suddenly decide to start yelling at the waitress for wearing white shoes, we all had to deal with the looks and stares, and sometimes even the comments and questions from strangers wanting to know if she was alright. That is why I chose to write this paper. I feel that people need to be more educated on what this form of dementia truly is and what the signs and symptoms can be. They should also be aware of what it is they can do to help make families dealing with this disease more comfortable, whether it be at a nursing home, a restaurant, or even if they are just visiting.
Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most common forms of dementia. It is an incurable disease that strikes most elderly people gradually, by destroying nerve cells in their brains and little by little it erases their ability to remember, to think, and to take care of themselves (Izenberg, 2000). Often times this disease has been called “the long good-bye” because the symptoms progress so gradually. Most often the disease shows itself in the elderly around the age of about eighty, and is rarely seen in people under the age of sixty-five. One of the characteristics of this disease that makes it so hard for scientists to find a cure, are the numerous factors that present themselves in different patients. It seems as if no two cases of Alzheimer’s can be exactly alike.
In 1906 a physician, named Alois Alzheimer, cared for a fifty-one year old patient with severe dementia. Upon her death, he was able to examine her brain at autopsy. Dr. Alzheimer was able to take advantage of recent innovations in microscopy and histological techniques that allowed him to study in detail the cellular components in nervous tissue. He found that the brain of his patient had severe cortical atrophy and described the neurofibrillary bundles and plaques that are now the hallmark for definitive diagnosis of what he at that time called “presenile...