If you are getting older or caring for an elderly individual you should look out for the signs of Alzheimer's. The faster it is detected and treated the better. There is a lot of research going on now and of course we are all hoping for a cure. Here is an excellent article on the Alzheimer's warning signs to look for.
I was a caregiver/CNA for years and i dealt with many Alzheimer's patients. It was a heartbreaking experience to see the decline in cognitive ability. I could not imagine going through this and have long been a supporter of research in hopes of finding a cure. Early treatment can in fact delay the progression but until a cure is found, many people will lose grip on present issues and the world around them. Many live in the past, and can relive traumatic events that are best forgotten.
Totally heartbreaking for the one afflicted and the family as well. I believe that Alzheimer's is a family disease- how could it not impact the family system? Also consider the consequences on the "sandwich generation"? Are we as our parents children, really in a position to become caretakers for our parents- particularly when dementia is involved? Very gritty discussion.
I had an interesting interaction with a former client diagnosed with Alzheimer's type dementia. She became very confused and frustrated when she would go to her refrigerator to retrieve something. Plastered on the front of the fridge were recent photos of her grandchildren (who she did not see very often due to geographic distance) placed by well-meaning family members. She did not recognize these kids, and I believe, it made her doubt where she was, whose fridge it was, and what she was doing. When we put an old news clipping of her and her husband ringing in the new year in 1950 (it ran in an area paper), she not only knew the people in the photo, but remembered the event with clarity telling others what her husband wore for that particular party. I think it has something to do with imprinting of memories and the ability or lack-of for dementia clients to put events into their long-term memory after dementia has become evident...
I think it's a good point that people should be aware of what signs to look out for with their elderly relatives. I know I don't. I have no idea what is just age-induced forgetfulness and what is a warning sign of Alzheimers.
I spent time with my parents over Christmas. If my father was keeping his mind active he was fine but if he had spent time watching something on the TV that hadn't kept his attention then it would take him 30 seconds or so to remember what he wanted to do next. He'd stand up, head in one direction, stop, look confused and then remember.