KENILWORTH, N.J., Nov. 10, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- With more than five million Americans living with Alzheimer's disease and more than 10 million caring for someone with Alzheimer's, nearly everyone knows someone affected by this irreversible, heartbreaking disease. During National Alzheimer's Awareness Month and National Family Caregivers Month, Dr. Juebin Huang, MD, PhD and Assistant Professor of Neurology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, provides guidance for those caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's disease on MerckManuals.com. Some of the insights Dr. Huang outlined in his article include: Understand the difference between dementia and Alzheimer's Distinguishing Alzheimer's disease from the varied effects of aging and related conditions remains challenging for patients and their families. Dementia is not a specific disease. Dementia is a term used to describe any slow, progressive decline in mental function, like memory or language, which is significant enough to disrupt an individual's daily activities. Although Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of dementia, there are many other causes of dementia that a physician will consider. Be mindful of warning signs In older adults, it's not always easy to figure out which changes in memory and personality are parts of the natural aging process and which are signs of a more serious issue. While family members most commonly point to signs of forgetfulness in aging loved ones, doctors considering an Alzheimer's diagnosis will also look for other warning signs, including:
A decline in carrying out daily functions like balancing a checkbook
A lack of interest in hobbies
Reluctance to leave the house
Difficulty keeping up with conversations.
Monitor progression Caregivers are often the first to notice warning signs and may be the ones to push for the first doctor visit. However, these issues typically develop very slowly and are very subtle at first. It's common for individuals to not remember exactly when they started experiencing symptoms. It can be years before a person seeks medical treatment, which makes establishing a timeline and predicting the progression difficult for doctors.