Did you know that June is Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month? According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 47 million people around the world have some form of dementia and there are over 7 million new diagnoses every year. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia and may contribute to 60-70% of all dementia cases. Statistics from the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America estimate that over 5 million Americans may have Alzheimer’s disease and that number is rising in line with the aging population. It is also estimated that around half a million Americans under the age of 65 may have some form of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.
WHO defines dementia as a syndrome where there is deterioration in cognitive function, such as a person’s memory, thinking, orientation, calculation, and language use. Dementia is chronic or progressive in nature, but it does not affect consciousness. The deterioration from dementia goes beyond what we can expect from normal aging. The symptoms of dementia are often accompanied by deterioration in emotional control, social behavior, and motivation. There are different forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, and Lewy bodies. The boundaries between the different forms of dementia are not distinct and mixed forms often co-exist.
The Alzheimer’s Association defines Alzheimer’s disease as a “type of dementia that causes problems in memory, thinking, and behavior.” Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of aging and its greatest known risk factor is increasing age. However, it also affects those under the age of 65. The symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease worsen over time. Initially, memory loss and other symptoms are mild. With late-stage Alzheimer’s disease, however, people lose their ability to carry on a conversation and to respond to their environment.
Adding to these concerns, people with other disabilities are living longer and, as they reach more advanced age, are as likely to develop some form of dementia as their peers without disabilities. The American Academy of Developmental Medicine and Dentistry (AADMD) formed a national task group with the NIDILRR-funded Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Aging with Developmental Disabilities to examine the issue of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and dementia practices and develop guidelines for evaluation and management.
Currently, there is no cure for dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Treatments for symptoms are available and research continues in the areas of therapies, communication, technology, and more. Our REHADATA database contains more than 2,000 abstracts of research literature on dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Use these links to explore further:
- NIDILRR-funded research on Alzheimers/dementia in general
- NIDILRR-funded research on dementia and intellectual/developmental disabilities
- NIDILRR-funded research on communication and dementia
- Research on communication and dementia from all sources, including international
- NIDILRR-funded research on caregivers and dementia
- Research on caregiving and dementia from all sources, including international
- NIDILRR-funded research on technology and dementia
- Research on technology and dementia from all sources, including international
Currently, the Alzheimer’s Association has a campaign to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s disease. You can take part in their campaign through the use of #ENDALZ, by sharing your Alzheimer’s disease story through #MyAlzStory, and through #ShowYourPurple. If your family is dealing with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia, please reach out to local services and supports. Your local area agency on aging or 211 call center can connect you to support groups, day programs, respite care and so much more.