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Alzheimer's Disease Health Center

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Glossary of Alzheimer's Disease Terms


Positron emission tomography (PET) scan: A test that can show how an organ or tissue is working. For instance, it can show blood flow in the brain.

Prognosis: What’s likely to happen over time with a disease.

Progressive disorder: A condition that gets worse over time.

Psychiatrists: Medical doctors who specialize in treating mental, emotional, or behavioral disorders. They can prescribe medications and provide counseling. They will have “MD” or “DO” after their name.

Psychologists: Counselors who usually have advanced degrees but who are not doctors and cannot prescribe medicine. Instead, they specialize in “talk therapy,” to help you with your emotions and learn different ways to manage your challenges.

Psychosis: A general term for a state of mind in which thinking becomes irrational and/or disturbed. It can include delusions and hallucinations, for instance.

Psychotherapy: Counseling with a professional can help treat many psychiatric and emotional conditions. You may also hear this called “talk therapy.”

Repetitive behavior: Questions, stories, and outbursts or specific activities repeated over and over again. It’s common in people with Alzheimer’s.

Respite: A short break or time away.

Respite care: Services that provide people with temporary relief from their caregiving tasks. Examples of respite care include in-home assistance, short nursing home stays, and adult day care.

Restraints: Devices that restrict and control a person's movement in order to keep that person safe. Many facilities are "restraint-free" or use other methods to reach the same goal.

Risk factor: Something that makes a person more likely to develop a disease or condition. 

Safe Return: The Alzheimer's Association's nationwide identification, support, and registration program that assists in the safe return of individuals with Alzheimer's disease or other dementias who wander and become lost.

Shadowing: Following, mimicking, and interrupting behaviors.

Side effect: A problem linked to treatment. They can vary in how serious they are.

SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) scan: A procedure that measures blood flow in different areas of the brain.

Skilled nursing care: A level of care that includes ongoing medical or nursing services.

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