Important Facts About Alzheimer’s Everyone Should Know

Posted on May 6, 2016



Important Facts About Alzheimer’s Everyone Should Know

In my original article, which posted on the Alzheimer’s Reading Room 9/11/2014, I

identified three facts everyone should know about dementia/Alzheimer’s and share with

others. I’ve expanded on that list in this article to be more comprehensive. facts-about-


No disrespect to the already well informed, but the general public needs a better

knowledge base to recognize the subtle, often excused-away symptoms of

dementia issues.

Just as breast cancer supporters have worked tirelessly to advance research funding

with their Pink ribbon campaign, Alzheimer’s awareness advocates need to make

Purple the new Pink!


These basic facts will help everyone. Please pass them on.

1. Alzheimer’s is a real neurological disease.

Even people with only a minimal understanding of medical issues grasp the basics

of major diseases like cancer, diabetes or heart problems. In fact my son-in- law’s

high school juniors know that when a stroke occurs on one side of the brain, it

affects the opposite side of the body. That said however, most people don’t have

an adequate understanding of the dementias in general and Alzheimer’s in


Alzheimer’s is a real, fatal, progressive disease with no treatments.

It is not just a quirky personality change.

Because of how the disease affects the individual’s brain, their personality is

affected usually causing adverse changes. Hostility, paranoia, suspicion are

frequent first indications in otherwise kind individuals.

I’m an occupational therapist and talked frequently with my husband about my

mother’s deterioration from Alzheimer’s. I was stunned, an understatement really,

to find out that he did not know that Alzheimer’s “caused real brain changes” (his


During a television spot on Alzheimer’s, my husband and I saw two brain scan

images placed side by side. One showed a normal adult brain and the other the

brain of someone with Alzheimer’s. The contrast was striking. It was unmistakable

comparing the shriveled, mottled, darkened brain of the person affected by

Alzheimer’s disease.

I could hardly believe that having lived with me every step of every arduous day of

my mother’s journey through dementia, that my husband still didn’t “get” that

Alzheimer’s was a real, brain destroying disease! If he could genuinely remain in

the dark after all of his experiences, so can anyone else.


2. By the time Alzheimer’s disease is diagnosed, it has been present in and

changing the brain for years.

Current research indicates that Alzheimer’s may exist in the brain causing

neurological deterioration for as many as ten years before symptoms appear. A

disease or condition that has virtually no physiological clues is especially

challenging to diagnosis and find treatments for.

Physical symptoms like pain, shortness of breath, unexplained weakness, double

vision etc. are disconcerting enough to bring one to the doctor. But Alzheimer’s

has chipped and chiseled away at one’s brain long before, years in fact, there are

undeniable memory and personality changes that “are disconcerting enough to

bring one to the doctor.”


3. Alzheimer's the only disease in the top 10 that currently has no cure,

treatment or means of prevention. *

Scary isn’t it!

Early detection is the singular difference in saving lives for every disease or

medical condition. And by extension knowledge is power or empowering to get

diagnosed and begin treatment early. But with Alzheimer’s there is no early

detection option.

Even as research leads to earlier diagnoses and improved treatment options,

Alzheimer’s may remain a disease in which clear symptoms follow well after the

onset. Although it is not the only condition that is relatively asymptomatic until it’s

“too late,” it is the only one in the top ten.

The hope may lie in biomarkers, measurable indicators like blood sugar levels,

heart attack enzymes or CA125 (cancer marker). A test that can indicate elevated

risk factors for Alzheimer’s by which treatments can begin before the “too late”

point is reached would be epic!

And I for one, look forward to the day when NFL players wear purple shoes!

(*“Battle For Adequate Alzheimer's Funding Rages On” by Julie Delcour, Tulsa World website)


4. Deteriorating communication skills is one of the first indicators of


Language, real reciprocal dialogue, is distinctly unique to humans! It requires

very complex and intricate neurological skills. What is said has to be accurately

processed by the brain and a verbal response conceptualized and executed to

complete the reciprocal dialogue loop. This all literally occurs in nanoseconds.

As the brain of an Alzheimer’s person deteriorates, comprehending spoken

language and using it correctly plummet as mumbling and word substitution

trumps intelligibility.

When a family member asks their loved one with Alzheimer’s “What’s my name?”

or “What did you do today?” they inadvertently set them up for failure. It may be

neurologically impossible for their loved one to process the question, retrieve an

appropriate answer and articulate it within the milliseconds in which reciprocal

communication occurs.

Keep in mind that when some with Alzheimer’s tries to share an event, answer a

question or retrieve information, they are calling upon both their brain’s memory

and language centers to reply. Not only do they have continued difficulty recalling

details correctly they also struggle to express information accurately with words.

In summary these four points, and many others, about dementia and Alzheimer’s

are critically important for everyone to know and understand. Please take the time

to process the above and share with others. Knowledge is power!


Elaine C. Pereira, MA OTR/L CDP CDC
The One Book on Dementia that No One Else Could Write.
Author. Speaker. Certified Dementia Practitioner & Caregiver
I Will NEVER Forget -A Daughter's Story of Her Mother's Arduous
And Humorous Journey Through Dementia