Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s Disease

Struggling to remember a loved one’s name, losing the ability to prepare a meal, or needing assistance to perform even the most basic activities, such as sitting up.[1] These are just some of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease, a form of dementia that can have a severe physical, psychological, social, and economic impact, not just on the person suffering from Alzheimer’s, but also on their caregivers.[2]

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

As we reach our senior years, it is expected that we gradually lose some of our physical and cognitive acuity. Alzheimer’s Disease, however, while it is often associated with ageing, is not a normal part of getting older.[3]

Alzheimer’s is a progressive neurodegenerative disease.[4] Simply put, it destroys brain cells over a prolonged period of time.[4] It impacts memory, thinking, orientation, language, judgement, and the ability to carry out simple tasks. It does not affect consciousness.[3]

Alzheimer’s usually starts with mild symptoms that can easily be mistaken as normal signs of ageing.[2] In its most advanced stage, however, Alzheimer’s causes severe brain damage, which leads to near total memory loss and a complete dependency on others.[2]

It is common for patients with Alzheimer’s to also experience a deterioration in emotional control, social behaviour, or motivation.[2] How Alzheimer’s advances in each individual ultimately depend on their personality and general state of health.[2]

What are the symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease?

Unfortunately, no simple test exists to determine if someone has Alzheimer’s Disease. Instead, it’s important to monitor symptoms and track physical and mental state to exclude other illnesses.

The signs and symptoms can be grouped into three stages:

Early (mild)[5][1]

Middle (moderate)[5][1]

Late (severe)[5][1]

Early (mild)[5][1]

In this stage, symptoms are often overlooked or attributed to old age.

Middle (moderate)[5][1]

As the symptoms worsen, they will become more obvious and more restricting.

Late (severe)[5][1]

In this phase, the disease causes dependency and inactivity.

Early (mild)[5][1]

  • Forget words

  • Misplace objects

  • Become lost in a familiar place

  • Forget something you just read

  • Forget something that just happened

  • Forget names when meeting new people

  • Not knowing the time or the day of the week

  • A loss of interest in hobbies and activities

  • Have trouble making plans or organizing

  • Have difficulty making decisions

  • Mood changes, depression, or anxiety

Middle (moderate)[5][1]

  • Difficulty recognizing family and friends

  • Forget names and events

  • Can no longer live alone without problems

  • Inability to perform complex tasks, such as cooking, paying bills, cleaning, shopping

  • Difficulty maintaining personal hygiene

  • Difficulty with speech

  • Repeating questions

  • Calling out repeatedly

  • Wandering

  • Difficulty sleeping

  • Become lost at home as well as outside

  • Increased memory loss and confusion

  • Hallucinations

Late (severe)[5][1]

  • Difficulty eating and swallowing

  • Difficulty walking

  • Difficulty sitting up

  • Incapable of communicating

  • Difficulty recognizing family, friends, or familiar objects

  • Difficulty understanding surroundings and situations

  • Bladder and bowel incontinence

  • Display inappropriate behaviour in public

  • Wheelchair or bed dependent

  • Need for holding something close for tactile stimulation and comfort

  • Delusions

How common is Alzheimer’s?

Worldwide, around 50 million people have dementia,[6] and there are nearly 10 million[6] new cases every year. The total number of people with dementia is projected to reach 82 million in 2030 and 152 in 2050,[6] 18.7 million of whom are EU citizens.7

Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common form of dementia. It is estimated that Alzheimer’s contributes to at least 60% of all cases of dementia worldwide and that approximately 5-8% of the general population over the age of 60 has a form of dementia.[6]

Most often, Alzheimer’s is diagnosed in people over the age of 65.8 The number of people living with the disease doubles every 5 years beyond age 65.9


Treatment and Care

Today, there is no known cure for Alzheimer’s or any treatment to alter its progression.[6] Drug treatments currently only exist to target individual symptoms, but there are numerous clinical trials underway, hopeful of finding a solution to combat this debilitating disease.[6]

Many countries are investing in plans for an increasingly affected population, as well as in research on dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases.7

An early diagnosis can help plan for the most optimal care.[6] Ensuring detection and treatment, not just for physical afflictions, but also for challenging behavioural and psychological symptoms, will ensure the patient’s wellbeing, and retain respect for their dignity and personhood.[6]

With no cure available as of yet, it is best to focus on providing support to caregivers to make it easier for them to improve the lives of people with dementia as well as their own.

Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s

People living with dementia usually can’t carry on with their lives independently as they did before their diagnosis.[4] Often, caregivers are family members who also have other responsibilities of their own, such as jobs and/or taking care of children. As Alzheimer’s Disease symptoms worsen and loved ones become increasingly dependent for even their most basic needs, the situation can be overwhelming.

Daily changes in levels of ability and new patterns of behaviour, and the increasing need for more intensive care, can cause immense physical, emotional, and financial pressure.

To help navigate all this whilst caring for a person living with dementia, while also making sure you’re practising self-care, national Alzheimer associations can provide both helpful resources and support groups.

Questions to ask your doctor

The list below includes example questions to help start a conversation with your health care provider. There may be other relevant questions based on your symptoms, stage, and medical history that are not listed here.

  • What stage am I in now, and what changes can I expect?
  • Are there any treatments to target the symptoms I have?
  • Would mental and physical exercise preserve my cognitive health?
  • Should we look into making new living arrangements?
  • How do we make our home safe and comfortable for someone with dementia?
  • What are the symptoms that we should be watching closely?
  • Should we get formal care?
  • How long can I function normally after receiving an Alzheimer's diagnosis?
  • Could any medications make my condition worse?
  • What services and support organizations exist in this area?
  • Are there any Alzheimer’s Disease clinical trials I might qualify for?
  • ...

Janssen & Alzheimer’s Disease

Janssen has one of the most dedicated Alzheimer’s research programs in the industry, with projects focused on the underlying causes of the illness, as well as on ways to slow disease progression, and possibly prevent it altogether. Our projects include oral medicines, antibodies or injectable medicines, and therapeutic vaccines.

Our scientists and physicians measure their work in terms of progress, rather than through the stark lens of success or failure. That is because even when experiments don’t work out as expected, the insights gained can lead to breakthroughs. So, while there is currently no disease-modifying treatment or cure for Alzheimer’s disease, progress with research gives us a reason for hope.

Glossary

  • Incidence: the proportion or rate of persons in a population who develop a condition during a particular time period.
  • Prevalence: The proportion of persons in a population who have a condition at or during a particular time period.
  • Cognition: the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses.
  • Hallucination: when you see or hear things that aren’t there.
  • Delusion: when you believe something that is not or no longer true, such as thinking you have to go to work when you’re already retired.

Patient advocacy groups and external sources

This website is developed exclusively by Janssen Pharmaceutica NV. Please note that the patient advocacy groups, and external sources listed below are an additional and independent source of information you might find useful. These groups and sources were not involved in the creation of this website and do not endorse its content in any way.

World Alzheimer's Month

World Alzheimer's Month is the international campaign by Alzheimer's Disease International (ADI) every September to raise awareness and challenge the stigma that surrounds dementia. World Alzheimer's Day is on 21 September each year.

References

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Ritchlin CT, et al. N Engl J Med 2017;376:957-970.
National Psoriasis Foundation. About psoriatic arthritis. Available at: https://www.psoriasis.org/about-psoriatic-arthritis Accessed: August 2023.
Arthritis Foundation. Psoriatic arthritis. Available at: https://www.arthritis.org/diseases/psoriatic-arthritis Accessed: August 2023.
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