Understanding What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Posted on September 01, 2019

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In a previous blog post, we shared research and breakthroughs regarding Alzheimer’s disease since it was first discovered. With this blog, we are taking a more historical approach and tailoring the information towards the history of the disease itself and answering the question “What is Alzheimer’s disease?”. 

While Silver Comet Village understands that knowing the research and breakthroughs of the disease are important, we want to encourage an understanding of the background of the disease as well. 

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

The most important question to answer is: what is Alzheimer’s disease? Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease that can cause a wide variety of symptoms. This disease is a specific form of dementia that is currently irreversible and incurable - although a cure is being searched for. 

While symptoms can vary from person to person, here are some of the most common symptoms of Alzheimer’s:

  • Short and long term memory loss
  • Erratic mood swings, irritability, or unfounded paranoia
  • Confusion with time or place
  • Trouble communicating 
  • Difficulty understanding visual images or spatial relationships 
  • Inability to combine muscle movements

The symptoms can wildly change depending on the stage of the disease. There are seven stages of Alzheimer’s disease, and as it progresses the impairment and symptoms become increasingly worse. 

While Alzheimer’s disease is spreading, so is the awareness of the disease. Researchers are making strides in finding therapy-altering methods, and a cure could be on the horizon! 

The Origin of Alzheimer’s Disease

While most may assume Alzheimer’s disease was a modern discovery, its origin dates back over a century ago. The first person diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease was named Auguste Deter. Her symptoms began to set in during the late 1890s when she was in her late 40’s. While this is uncommon, early on-set dementia is not entirely unheard of. The symptoms shown were unfounded paranoia, and short term and long term memory loss.  During this time, dementia was thought to be a natural part of growing older, which is why it perplexed Alois Alzheimer that a woman so young showed symptoms. During Alzheimer’s time with Deter, he noted her behavior and called her condition a “disease of forgetfulness.” 

After a year of caring for Deter, Alzheimer left the hospital where Deter was being treated. Even after leaving Deter, Alzheimer kept in contact and made frequent calls to check up on her. After Deter passed away in 1906, Alzheimer requested to perform her autopsy, where he made his initial discovery of a “peculiar and severe disease process of the cerebral cortex” - later to be coined as Alzheimer’s disease.

Modern History and Notable Figures Diagnosed

During the time of its discovery, Alzheimer’s disease research hit many roadblocks due to technological constraints. However, these restrictions did not stop research or scientists’ pursuit of answering the underlying question of what is Alzheimer’s disease.

Government agencies have a long history of combating the disease, too! The first Alzheimer’s Awareness Month was founded in 1983, a little over three years after the founding of the Alzheimer’s Association

There have been a few celebrities or well-known individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease; every time one of these individuals comes forward, the condition sees a new surge of awareness. One of the most notable announcements came in November 1994 in the form of a handwritten letter from former President Ronald Reagan. The message was an announcement to the public that he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and planned to spend his remaining days out of the public spotlight. 

A few other notable icons diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease:

  • Rosa Parks, legendary civil rights activist 
  • Casey Kasem, renown voice actor 
  • James Doohan, famous actor
  • Norman Rockwell, renowned painter
  • Glenn Cambell, famous country musician, and guitarist

Every time a well-known individual announces their connection with the disease, we see an influx of people asking the question: what is Alzheimer’s disease? This attention drastically helps spread awareness and brings more information to the public. If your parent or loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, staying informed and knowledgeable about the disease is your best defense. If you would like to learn more about the disease or have questions regarding senior care, please contact Silver Comet Village today!