Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer’s disease occurs as cells in the brain and nervous system die. This disease is known to worsen over time and is thought to come from causes such as genes, environmental factors, immune system deficiency and protein deposits in the brain.

Compassionate Healing Starts Here

Click below to learn more about where you can find compassionate care.

Our experts know the importance that memories have to our identities and our lives. At UC Health, providers specializing in memory care and brain health build tailored treatment plans for every individual's needs. Bringing a comprehensive approach backed by the latest research, our teams offer hope through early diagnosis and compassionate care.

To schedule an appointment, please call 513-941-8264.


Understanding Alzheimer's Disease

What is Alzheimer's disease?

Alzheimer's disease is a disease that affects the brain and nervous system. It happens when nerve cells in the brain die. The disease gets worse over time. It is a type of dementia.

Alzheimer's disease often causes:

  • Problems with memory, thinking, and behavior.
  • Confusion.
  • Restlessness.
  • Personality changes.
  • Problems with judgment.
  • Problems with making sense when talking.
  • Problems with following directions.
  • Problems with eyesight.
  • Problems with knowing how objects around you relate to you (spatial awareness).
  • Lack of interest or concern about other people.

The disease does not affect a person’s movement. He or she can still get around normally.

What causes Alzheimer's disease?

Doctors do not know what causes Alzheimer's disease. They think it might be caused by one or more of these:

  • Age and family history.
  • Certain genes.
  • Abnormal protein deposits in the brain.
  • Environmental factors.
  • Immune system problems.

What are the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease?

The following are the most common symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. But not everyone has all of these symptoms. Symptoms may include:

  • Memory loss that affects job skills, especially short-term memory loss.
  • Trouble doing familiar tasks.
  • Problems with language.
  • Confusion about time and place.
  • Poor judgment.
  • Problems with abstract thinking.
  • Misplacing things.
  • Changes in mood or behavior.
  • Changes in personality.
  • Loss of desire to do things.
  • Loss of the ability to know who people are. This even includes people whom the person knows well such as a child or spouse.

The symptoms of Alzheimer's disease may look like other health conditions or problems. Always see your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How is Alzheimer's disease diagnosed?

No single test can diagnose Alzheimer's disease. A healthcare provider will first rule out other conditions. But the only way to confirm a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease is to examine the brain after death. An autopsy can show changes in the brain that mark the disease.

It’s important to find out if the dementia is caused by an illness that can be treated. A healthcare provider will do thorough exams of the person’s nervous system. The provider may also do:

  • Complete health history. This may include questions about overall health and past health problems. The provider will see how well the person can do daily tasks. The provider may ask family members about any changes in behavior or personality.
  • Mental status test. This may include tests of memory, problem solving, attention, counting, and language. Neuropsychological testing may also be done. This will likely be a series of tests that assess your brain function. It usually involves answering questions and doing certain tasks.
  • Other lab tests. These may include blood and urine tests to find possible causes of the problem.
  • Brain imaging tests. CT, MRI, or positron emission tomography (PET) may be used to rule out other causes of the problem.

How is Alzheimer's disease treated?

Medicines are often used to help people maintain mental function and carry out daily activities. They include:

  • Donepezil
  • Rivastigmine
  • Galantamine
  • Memantine

At this time, Alzheimer's disease has no cure. There is no way of slowing down the progression of this disease. And no treatment is available to reverse the changes that the disease brings on. But new research findings give reason for hope. Several medicines are being studied in clinical trials to see if they can slow the progress of the disease or improve memory for a period of time.

Some medicines are available to help manage some of the most troubling symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. These symptoms include:

  • Depression.
  • Behavior problems.
  • Sleep problems.

Exercise and social activities are important to help manage the disease. So are good nutrition, a healthy lifestyle, and a calm and well-structured environment.

Can Alzheimer's disease be prevented?

Because doctors don’t know what causes the disease, there is no way to prevent it. But some risk factors for dementia can be modified with lifestyle changes. Taking good care of yourself by controlling your blood pressure and glucose can reduce the risk for dementia. Head injury increases the risk of developing dementia, so it is important to wear a helmet when taking part in dangerous activities. Also wear a seatbelt and take other measures to prevent brain injury.

What are the possible complications of Alzheimer disease?

Alzheimer's disease is a progressive disease. This means that memory problems and problems with doing daily tasks gradually get worse. Each person is affected differently, but people with Alzheimer disease have mood and behavior problems that make it hard for family members to care for them. As a person is less able to care for himself or herself, families or others must help with personal care, meals, and daily activities. People with advanced Alzheimer disease will most likely need to stay in a place that specializes in the care of people with memory disorders.

Living with Alzheimer's disease

Care programs for people with Alzheimer's disease differ depending on the symptoms a person has and how far along the disease is. These programs can help a person and his or her family manage the disease.

Any skills lost will not be regained, but these tips can help people and families living with Alzheimer's disease:

  • Plan a balanced program of exercise, social activity, good nutrition, and other healthy lifestyle activities.
  • Plan daily activities that help to give structure, meaning, and goals for the person.
  • As the person is less able to function, change activities and routines to let the person take part as much as possible.
  • Keep activities familiar and satisfying.
  • Let the person to do as many things by him or herself as possible. The caregiver may need to start an activity, but allow the person to complete it as much as he or she can.
  • Give "cues" to help the person. For example, label drawers, cabinets, and closets to let the person know what is in them.
  • Keep the person out of harm's way by removing all safety risks. These might include car keys and matches.
  • As a caregiver, understand your own physical and emotional limits. Take care of yourself and ask for help if you need it.

Contact Us

At UC Health, we lead the region in scientific discoveries and embrace a spirit of purpose – offering our patients and their families something beyond everyday healthcare. At UC Health, we offer hope.