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Elder Care Professionals Talk To You About How Alzheimer’s Effects The Brain

Sep 10, 2018 by Cindy Adkins

Great to see you back for part three of our four-part series on Alzheimer’s Disease. September is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month and in this third part, we will be taking a look at how Alzheimer’s does affect the brain and what goes on within our heads as the disease develops and progresses.

In case you missed it: Part 1 | Part 2

Your Brain: Important Parts to Familiarize Yourself With

One of the most complex organs in the body, the brain is extremely powerful and responsible for the movements you make, how you understand speech, and much more. There are intricate details and features of the brain and today, our team of elder care specialists will be focusing on four main parts, which are affected by Alzheimer’s.

  • Cerebrum – This portion of the brain is responsible for helping you think, feel, recall, and problem solve. This is the largest section of your brain
  • Cerebellum – This portion of the brain is located near the back of your skull and it is much smaller than the cerebrum. It is responsible for your balance and coordination
  • Brain Stem – The brain stem connects your spinal cord and brain. It is responsible for functions such as breathing and digestion
  • Cortex – This layer is in the cerebrum and it works to control specific functions of the body. There are four lobes and each one has a definitive function

How the Signals in Your Brain Are Received

The brain is made up of blood vessels, but that is not all. In fact, the brain is made up of billions of little neurons that branch out in many directions to help carry signals to specific sections within the brain. Each brain signal is an electrical charge and it tells your brain the specific functions it needs to carry out.

Once a charge has been created, it will travel down the neurons until it reaches what is known as the synapses. This is the area where all the cells connect. Once received, the neurons let out a chemical called neurotransmitters, and these will carry the signal to other cells within the body. Alzheimer’s hits this area of the brain the hardest.

How the Brain is Affected by Alzheimer’s

Healthy synapses and neurons in the brain are important and crucial for functioning. When Alzheimer’s disease starts to set in the brain, these areas are affected and the power within them starts to diminish. The reason behind this is because of plaques and tangles.

  • Plaques – These are clusters of protein fragments that are clumped up together between the synapses
  • Tangles – These are strands of protein fragments that twist themselves around the neurons

Plaques and tangles will generally form within the same pattern of development and progression, however, the rate at which the pattern forms will be different for everyone. Once these plaques and tangles have formed, they will disrupt the function of the brain by forcing the signals to different/unknown areas or not transfer the signals at all. As the neurons are not used, they deteriorate, start to rot, and eventually die. This is the part of Alzheimer’s that kills the brain.

The earliest stages of Alzheimer’s are when the plaques and tangles develop, and they start to affect the thinking, memories and learning within the individual. Changes in behavior, mood, and personality will go unnoticed for some time. It is not until, typically, the mid-stages of Alzheimer’s those symptoms will really start to appear.

Once the mid-stage of Alzheimer’s hits, the proteins that were formed earlier start to spread out to the areas of the brain that control the understanding of speech, speech itself, and spatial awareness. This is often the best time to get an elder care specialist involved in the care of your loved one. The final stages of Alzheimer’s are the worst, and this is when the brain’s cortex suffers the most. The brain can and often will shrink at this time due to the death of the neurons.

Elder Care, Alzheimer’s Disease, and You!

It is a difficult experience to watch as your loved one’s health deteriorates due to Alzheimer’s disease. In order to better understand the disease, its progression, and how to help your loved one, join us at our Walk To End Alzheimer’s event. You can bring awareness, learn more, walk, or donate.

The Walk To End Alzheimer’s

Date: Sunday, September 16, 2018

Place: University of Puget Sound | 1500 North Warner St. Tacoma, WA 98416

Times: Registration at 11am | Ceremony at 12pm | Walk at 12:30pm

Our elder care team invites you to come back next week to read the fourth and last part of this four-part series. 

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