Alzheimer's disease

Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia and usually starts from age 65.

Overview

Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia and usually starts from age 65. The cells in the brain slowly waste away, leading to a continuous decline in mental function. Over time, even the ability to carry out simple everyday tasks is lost and patients become completely dependent on care. An active life consistently filled with new mental challenges (lifelong learning) can help prevent Alzheimer’s.

Symptoms

  • Cognitive symptoms
    • Growing forgetfulness (first short-term and then long-term memory)
    • Trouble finding the right words or forming sentences
    • Loss of ability to read, write and do arithmetic
    • Memory loss (names, persons, events)
    • Loss of temporal/geographic orientation
  • Personality disorders
  • Movement disorders
    • Hyperactivity (restlessness, aggression)
    • Lack of motion (slow, uncoordinated, grasping at nothing)
  • Accompanying symptoms

Causes and treatment

Causes

Further treatment by your doctor / in hospital

Possible tests
  • Physical and psychiatric examination
  • Tests to assess mental skills (memory, concentration)
  • Tests to assess execution of everyday tasks
  • CT scan (computed tomography) or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
  • Examination of cerebrospinal fluid (lumbar puncture), if necessary
Possible therapies
  • Brain gym
  • Mobilisation of physical resources (encourage exercise, sports group)
  • Medication (to slow down progression, reduce the symptoms)
  • Enable a balanced diet
  • Organisational measures
    • Information about disease progression (patient/family members)
    • Clarify need for care (Spitex, cared for by family members, nursing home)
    • Social counselling (finances, social support)
    • Promote independence (e.g. daily schedule for everyday tasks)
    • Social integration (group activities)

What can I do myself?

  • Have risk factors treated, if possible
  • Lead an active and busy life
    • Mobility
    • Keep up social contacts
  • Build up a support network
  • Motto: lifelong learning – learning until you reach old age (mental fitness, "staying on the ball")
    • Break routines
    • Set new challenges
  • Ensure a balanced diet

When to see a doctor?

  • Generally if Alzheimer’s is suspected (by patient or family members)
    • Growing concentration difficulties
    • Noticeable dependence on memory aids (notes, memos, calendar entries)
    • Appointments are regularly missed/forgotten
    • Glasses, keys, etc. are regularly mislaid, lost
    • Difficulty in finding the right words
    • Familiar people aren't recognised immediately
    • Problems with orientation
    • Fluctuations in mood
    • Aggressive behaviour (physical/verbal)
    • Day and night rhythms get mixed up
    • Degeneration in personal care and hygiene
    • Noticeable weight loss or weight gain

Further information

Alzheimer Schweiz (Alzheimer Switzerland)
www.alzheimer-schweiz.ch

Alzheimerpunktch (Alzheimer-dot-ch)
www.alzheimer.ch

Synonyms

Alzheimer's disease, Alzheimer's, senile dementia

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CSS offers no guarantee for the accuracy and completeness of the information. The information published is no substitute for professional advice from a doctor or pharmacist.

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