What is Alzheimer’s disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, accounting for 50-60% of all cases. It is a progressive neurological condition characterised by the buildup of abnormal proteins in the brain which gradually damage and eventually destroy nerve cells. Loss of memory for recent events may be one of the first noticeable symptoms although problems with language, personality, reasoning and performing tasks may become more prominent as the disease progresses. The risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease increases with age and its prevalence increases from approximately 1% in people under 65 years of age to greater than 25% for those 80 years and over. Alzheimer’s disease also occurs in younger adults, although this is less frequent. It is important to note that there are several causes of memory impairment other than Alzheimer’s disease and not all progress over time.
What are the early signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease?
Although the early signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease may vary from person to person, increasing memory loss over time – sometimes characterised by the inability to remember names or recall recent events – is often the first noticeable symptom. The most common signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are below. Usually a person will display a number of these signs:
- Memory loss, particularly for recent events
- Problems with language
- Changes in mood and behaviour and personality
- Difficulty in performing everyday tasks
- Disorientation in familiar surroundings
- Impaired judgement
- Loss of interest and motivation
What is the difference between normal ageing and mild cognitive impairment?
Normal ageing or “healthy ageing” is a term that is widely used to describe the natural changes that occur in the absence of disease. Most older adults will experience some decline in their ability to remember, use words or process information, and make decisions compared to previous years. In the majority of cases, this does not necessarily signify something serious. A smaller number of people may have “mild cognitive impairment.” This is a descriptive term for individuals with thinking or cognitive difficulties in excess of that expected for normal ageing but with largely intact ability to manage their normal daily activities. There are many causes of mild cognitive impairment and while some individuals may have the earliest signs of Alzheimer’s disease, we know that a large proportion do not and will not get worse over time.
Does early intervention help?
Early intervention is important for a number of reasons:
- It allows early detection of potentially reversible causes of memory or cognitive impairment.
- It allows early detection and correction of other factors such as vascular risk factors (hypertension) which may complicate or exacerbate cognitive decline.
- It provides an opportunity to detect and treat psychological or behavioural symptoms of cognitive decline.
- Medication may be used at the earliest appropriate opportunity to maintain independence.
- It provides an opportunity for patients and family members to plan for the future.
- Family members and caregivers can avail of appropriate help and support to allow them to care for their relative more successfully and for longer.
You can learn more about cognitive impairment and memory loss by accessing these popular downloads here.
Can I take part in research on memory loss?
Research is an important component of the Memory Clinic and patients and their families may be asked to participate in research. Research participation is independent of the clinical assessment. Any research participation is entirely voluntary and subject to patient consent. You can learn more about our research here.
Where is the Memory Clinic located?
The Memory Clinic is located on the Ground Floor of Mercer’s Institute for Successful Ageing at St. James’s Hospital. It can be accessed via the Main Hospital Entrance. Please see the map for directions.
Is there parking available nearby?
Car parking is limited in the hospital. There is an underground public car park in the middle of the hospital campus that is a 5-10 minute walk to Mercer’s Institute for Successful Ageing. Follow the signs from the main hospital concourse to MISA.
Can I take public transport to the hospital?
The 123 Bus passes through the grounds of St James’s Hospital and stops close to the main hospital entrance. From the City Centre, the 78A, 51 and 51B stop at the James’s Street entrance. The 19 stops on the South Circular Road close to the Rialto entrance. The red line LUAS also stops in the St. James’s Hospital campus, close to where the Memory Clinic is situated. Follow signs to Mercer’s Institute for Successful Ageing. The Memory Clinic is located on the ground floor. See additional parking information here.