Dementia

Alzheimer’s Disease is the most prevalent type of dementia amongst people aged 65 and older. Information regarding e.g. vasculair dementia, mixed type dementia and other types of dementia can be found for example on the Alzheimer Disease International. I will briefly describe Alzheimer’s Disease below.alzheimer hersenenA picture is worth a thousand words. Above, you see scans and slices of brains. On the left, you see the brain of a healthy individual, on the right of a person with advanced Alzheimer. Not only do the brains on the right look smaller, they also show more ’empty’ spaces. You can imagine that this results in a (large) decrease in the number of brain cells as well as in the communication between cells.

The picture on the left (the colorful images) shows scans of brain activity. The severity of cognitive impairments progresses from left to right: a healthy brain, a brain with mild cognitive impairment (also called MCI) and a brain of someone with Alzheimer. The more colorful, the more brain activity. Black signifies a lack of activity. The ‘shrinking’ of the brain and consequent decrease in brain activity can lead to Alzheimer and associated changes in memory, concentration, emotion and behavior.

Alzheimer usually starts after the age of 65 and is more likely with older age, however: not inevitable. In rare cases, people younger than 65 may have Alzheimer, so called ‘early onset dementia’. This presents with all together different dynamics and challenges. Not only because people may still work and have a (young) family, but also because the disease progressions looks different.

Dr Camp advocates referring to Alzheimer as a syndrome, not as a disease. He reasons that Alzheimer’s Syndrome deserves an approach similar to the Down’s Syndrome: enabling people to function in society by focusing on their capabilities, instead of on their limitations and the ‘inevitable’ decline.