Aging comes with its fair share of good and bad; cognitive decline being one the characteristics that falls in the latter category. While communicable diseases have been a common struggle for health systems in Africa, recent studies highlight the fact that in the coming days the prevalence for Alzheimer’s disease in sub-Saharan Africa is anticipated to rise to 7.2% of population above the age of 60 years. In America it is estimated that there are 6 million people living with Alzheimer’s disease and the number is expected to double by 2050. In the era of the COVID 19 pandemic there has been a 16% increase in deaths attributed to Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.
Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative brain condition characterized primarily by memory loss and confusion. Cognitive features such as difficulty thinking, delusions, disorientation, forgetfulness and inability to create new memories are a common characteristic. While cognitive features present the most common symptoms, there is an array of behavioral symptoms that present themselves in persons suffering from Alzheimer’s. Aggression, Wandering, Irritability, difficulty with skilled movement, Discontentment and loneliness are among the other symptoms. This group of patients can also present with depression, hallucinations or paranoia.
With knowledge of the above signs and symptoms, early recognition of Alzheimer’s is important in ensuring the patient receives care and the progression of disease is slowed down. There are seven major steps in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease; Normal Behavior, Mild changes, Mild decline, Moderate decline, moderately severe decline, severe decline and Very Severe decline. The goal is to recognize and intervene before the patient gets to the stages of decline of function. However, it is important to know that medical interventions can be initiated at any stage of disease. The primary goal to ensure the patient has quality of living and to reduce poor outcomes due to other associated diseases.
There is hope for those with Alzheimer’s disease. Diagnosis and Treatment initiated by a doctor is essential since different types of medication are useful at different stages of the disease. The core of treatment is nursing care, patients and their families require assistance to ensure that there is an understanding of what the patient needs and the progression of disease. Nursing care is essential in preventing and caring for the patient in the event of any physical harm as well ensuring there is compliance to medication. A nurse plays a key role in the psychosocial support to the family of person’s living with Alzheimer’s.