Is it Dementia or Is it Alzheimer’s?


I was pleasantly surprised today when I went to my Continuity of Care (COCA) meeting this morning and our guest speaker was Dr. Raj Shah from Rush university medical Center. Dr. Shah is the Medical Director of the Rush memory Clinic. I will share with you in this article what he informed us on.

Some people use the terms dementia and Alzheimer’s interchangeably. Dementia though is defined as having chronic thinking problems affecting daily life over 3 months. It could be caused by a number of factors for which I touched on in my previous column. Alzhiemer’s is one cause of dementia. Oftentimes now healthcare providers are writing dementia due to __________.

Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) begins in midlife! Yikes! This is the asymptomatic phase but actually we may have nasty proteins swimming around in our brains trying to form or forming these plaques right this minute.

There are 2 phases of AD. The first one is mild cognitive impairment or MCI. The patient may have trouble remembering what they had for breakfast but they can still function in their day to day life (balance a checkbook, go to the store, prepare meals, etc…) The second phase is known as dementia. This when the patient has a hard time handling day to day tasks or even ADLs. (If you don’t know what ADLs are, please read my prior column on ADLs!)

There are 5.5 million people with AD right now and 90% of them are over 65. Dr. Shah expects to see over 13 million in the next few years as baby boomers age.

AD is the 3rd most expensive disease after cancer and heart disease. There is a push right now for a national plan to help treat this disease so the costs can be reduced. Costs include not only medical costs but also caregiver costs in lost wages and lost productivity.

Treatments are slow to be approved as they need at least 500,000 more people to volunteer for research studies! They are currently looking for people with and people without a diagnosis of AD to participate in clinical studies. If you are interested, you may contact Karoll Meza at 312-942-2312.

One study they are doing right now is with Aspirin. Another study is with fish oil and vitamin D. There is a study in Indiana with Lilly right now that is for patients already diagnosed with AD to test a new drug and there is also a study that is looking at genetics for families who have multiple members diagnosed with AD. At this point you have approximately a 2% chance of acquiring AD and so far only a 4% chance if you have a family member with AD.

Dr. Shah also discussed other factors that have been looked into as far as what causes AD or what factors may help diagnose AD. Some of those include nutrition, diabetes, and weight in your childhood as well as weight in adult life.

Watch for future columns on caring for a patient with AD and don’t forget to subscribe to my column!


One thought on “Is it Dementia or Is it Alzheimer’s?

  1. Pingback: Alzheimer’s Disease is a Women’s Disease | Home Health RN

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