More than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease, accounting for upward of 80 percent of all dementia cases [source: Alzheimer's Association]. The disease affects memory, judgment and perception. It creates havoc in the lives of those afflicted, as well as for family members. Over time, those suffering from Alzheimer's will lose the ability to speak, walk and swallow. It is a progressive and fatal disease. Researchers are making progress toward finding new treatments to delay the advance of the disease, but there currently is no cure.
A person still in their 30s or 40s may begin showing early symptoms of Alzheimer's, though it more commonly presents itself in those who are retirement age or older. In the early stages, a person has difficulty processing information, remembering simple items or tasks, and concentrating. While these people can still care for themselves most of the time, that independence will continue to shrink as the months and years pass. Even in the early stages, a momentary absence of thought can be disastrous while driving, working around the house or taking daily medications.
About 10 million people in the United States are providing their own home care to loved ones with Alzheimer's [source: Alzheimer's Association]. However, the challenges of caring for an Alzheimer's patient at home only multiply, so just when you think you can sufficiently help a loved one handle a certain level of disability, his or her needs increase. Professionals in care facilities are often equipped and trained to help residents with Alzheimer's. As soon as a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, family members need to begin discussing options for long-term care.