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Glossary of Alzheimer's Disease Terms

Below you will find a list of terms and definitions commonly used in association with Alzheimer’s disease.

Abilities: The level at which certain actions and activities can be carried out.

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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.

Antidepressants: Medications used to treat depression. Antidepressants are not addictive; they do not make you "high" or produce a craving for more.

Antibodies: Specialized proteins produced by the cells of the immune system that counteract specific foreign substances.

Anti-inflammatory drugs: Drugs that reduce inflammation or swelling.

Anxiety: A feeling of apprehension, fear, nervousness, or dread accompanied by restlessness or tension.

Apathy: Lack of interest, concern, or emotion.

Aphasia: Difficulty understanding the speech of others and/or expressing oneself verbally.

Art therapy: A form of therapy that allows people with dementia to express their feelings creatively through art.

Assessment: An evaluation, usually performed by a doctor, of a person's mental, emotional, and social capabilities.

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