ALZHEIMER'S

EARLY ONSET ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE

Medically speaking, Alzheimer's disease, named after German neurologist Alois Alzheimer in 1864, is also known as senile dementia and is characterized by mental confusion, memory loss, disorientation, restlessness, speech disturbances, the inability to walk or sit properly and sometimes hallucinations. The person afflicted with this disease may often refuse to eat and may be unable to feed oneself and lose control of bowel movements. Under most circumstances, Alzheimer's disease begins in the later years of life after the age of 65 with slight defects in memory and behavior and occurs with equal frequency in men and women. In the human brain, Alzheimer's is based upon certain types of plaque that accumulate in the cerebral cortex and on the surfaces of ganglion cells. Within recent years, treatment for Alzheimer's disease has included specific medications and changes in a person's diet, but the main cause of the disease is still under examination but has been linked to certain chemicals and substances in the environment.

Alzheimer's disease is almost always found in people over the age of 65, but there is another form of the disease known as early onset Alzheimer's which occurs, although very rarely, in persons in their 30's, 40's and early to mid-50's. Exactly why these persons become affected by Alzheimer's is not known, but recent research has suggested that these persons are genetically predisposed to early onset, much like inheriting a specific defective gene that leads to diseases like Parkinson's and Huntington's disorders.

Generally, there are seven specific stages that a person afflicted with Alzheimer's experiences within a prescribed length of time, ranging from seven to nine years. These stages are also experienced by those with early onset Alzheimer's and depending upon when the disease begins its progression, the person with early onset may not survive much past the age of sixty. According to the Alzheimer's Association, these seven stages "provide useful frames of reference for understanding how the disease may unfold and for making future plans" when the affected person becomes unable to care for him/herself during the final stages of the disease (2009, "The Warning Signs of Alzheimer's," Internet).

These seven stages are as follows. First, the affected person will generally have no impairment during stage one related to memory and the ability to function normally, both physically and mentally. Upon entering stage two, the affected person will experience very mild cognitive decline which may include lapses in memory, such as forgetting a person's name or being unable to locate common objects used on a daily basis. However, during this stage, friends and family members may not be aware of any cognitive decline and might consider small lapses of memory as nothing out of the ordinary (2009, "The Warning Signs of Alzheimer's," Internet).

In stage three, the affected person will experience mild cognitive decline which unlike stage two will be noticed by friends and family members. Some of the more common traits linked to stage two include a decreased ability to recall the names of familiar persons, a decrease in performance at work or in a social setting, a failure to retain information such as from reading a book, losing one's car keys or wallet, and an inability to plan or organize events, such as a child's birthday party.

In stage four, moderate cognitive decline appears and at this point in the progression, a simple medical examination will reveal deficiencies in the ability to recall recent events and occasions, such as what happened the previous day or even several…