Rosemary Orange, 53, of Ottawa, Ontario, suspected something was wrong with her 83-year-old mother, Sylvia. "She'd go shopping and forget what she was doing," Orange says. "So she'd come right back home without buying anything."
Several months later, Orange's mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, a type of dementia that affects nearly 36 million people worldwide. That rate is expected to nearly double in the next 20 years, according to the World Health Organization.
What can you do if a parent...
Acetylcholine: A chemical in the brain, called a neurotransmitter, that appears to be involved in learning and memory. Acetylcholine is greatly diminished in the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease.
Activities of daily living (ADL): Activities that are necessary for everyday living and functioning, such as eating, bathing, grooming, dressing, and using the toilet.
Adjuvant therapy: Treatment provided in addition to the primary treatment.
Adult day services: Programs that provide participants with opportunities to interact with others, usually in a community center or dedicated facility. People come and go from the center on a daily basis.
Advance directive (living will): A document written and signed when in "good" health that informs your family and health care providers of your wishes about extended medical treatment in times of emergency.
Adverse reaction: An unexpected effect of drug treatment that may range from minor to serious to life-threatening, such as an allergic reaction.
Aggression: Hitting, pushing, or threatening behavior that may occur when a caregiver tries to help an Alzheimer's patient with daily activities, such as grooming and dressing.
Agitation: Behavior, such as screaming, shouting, complaining, moaning, cursing, pacing, fidgeting, wandering, etc., that is disruptive, unsafe, or interferes with the delivery of care in a particular environment.
Alternative therapies: The use of techniques other than drugs, surgery, or other conventional therapies to treat disease and manage long-term pain. Some common alternative therapies, also called complementary therapies, include the use of herbs, meditation, exercise, magnets, reflexology, massage, and acupuncture.
Alzheimer's disease: A progressive disease in which nerve cells in the brain become damaged and brain matter shrinks, resulting in impaired thinking, behavior, and memory.
Ambulation: The ability to walk and move about freely.
Amyloid: A protein deposit associated with tissue damage and breakdown. Amyloid is found in the brains of individuals with Alzheimer's disease.
Amyloid plaque: Abnormal clusters of dead and dying nerve cells, other brain cells, and amyloid protein fragments.