For John MacInnes, the beginnings of Alzheimer’s disease were startling. The
retired executive and former pastor in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., first realized
something was wrong as he was delivering a PowerPoint presentation to a
community group. “Then in mid-sentence, I had problems,” he says. “I had a
well-rehearsed script in front of me, but I couldn’t get the words right,
couldn’t get them out. That kind of shook me up.”
Memory loss and impaired thinking are hallmark symptoms of this disease...
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.