Alzheimer’s is a progressive mental illness that is characterized by a degeneration of the nerve cells of the brain and a decrease in brain mass; the basic manifestations are memory loss, temporal and spatial disorientation, and intellectual and personal deterioration. This brain disorder slowly destroys memory and the ability to think, and over time, the ability to carry out even routine tasks such as brushing teeth, eating, and bathing. Changes in personality and behavior are also present in people with this disease.

Alzheimer’s symptoms have gradually worsened over the years. In its early stages, memory loss is mild, but in the final stage of Alzheimer’s, people lose the ability to respond to their environment. People with Alzheimer live between four and 20 years, depending on the age and health conditions of the individual.

Most Common Signs

  1. Memory impairment, which makes activities of daily living difficult.
  2. Difficulty concentrating, planning, or solving problems.
  3. Problems completing daily tasks at home or at work.
  4. Confusion regarding time and space.
  5. Visual or spatial perception difficulties, such as not understanding distances when driving or getting lost.
  6. Language problems such as trouble finding words or reduced vocabulary when speaking or writing.
  7. Placing objects out of place.
  8. Decreased or lack of judgment when making decisions.
  9. Loss of interest in work events or social commitments.
  10. Mood swings, such as sadness for no apparent reason, anxiety or unwarranted fears, hostility, behavior inappropriate to the circumstances, or other unexpected changes in behavior and personality.

For the period from January 1, 2014 to March 31, 2021, the Puerto Rico Alzheimer’s Registry identified 24,380 cases on the Island.  Alzheimer’s is considered the most common form of dementia. Unfortunately, its cause is still unknown.

By: Tania Mangual-Monzón, MS, BHE

Sources: Alzheimer Association | Departamento de Salud de Puerto Rico