Alois Alzheimer: The Man and The Disease He Named

Who is the eponymous Alois Alzheimer? His name is linked to the disease which is currently ranked as the sixth leading killer of Americans, though some studies claim that it may actually be the third most leading cause of death (behind heart disease and cancer.)

Alzheimer’s affects more than 5 million Americans, with more cases being diagnosed every year. It can be a cruel disease, taking memories and loved ones away while leaving the families with the realities of caring for someone who can’t care for themselves anymore. It’s different from age related memory loss because the effects of Alzheimer’s are so widespread, altering the personality and day to day living. There is no known cure for Alzheimer’s, either.

The man behind diagnosing the disease lived a short life, dying at the age of 51, but his legacy lives on as more people are diagnosed with the disease he helped to identify.

Alois Alzheimer

Born in June of 1864 in Markbreit, Bavaria, Alois Alzheimer spent his early years developing a keen love for medicine. As a young man he attended the Royal Humanistic Gymnasium, where he took an interest in medicine. He continued to study medicine in college, and upon his graduation, he quickly took up a job at the city mental asylum in Frankfurt. It was while he was in this institution that he met one subject who would help Alzheimer with classifying and understanding the neurodegenerative disease he would later be known for.

The Discovery

Alzheimer worked at the Royal Psychiatric Clinic in Munich at the time of Frau Deter’s death, but he made arrangements to receive her brain and records upon her death. Upon receiving her brain, he went to work taking samples and staining them to see the different proteins and tissues of the brain. He discovered that Frau Deter’s brain had what we now know of as the classic physical signs of Alzheimer’s disease: a massive lack of neurons, and strange clumps now called amyloid plaques, and tangled fibers called neurofibrillary, or tau, tangles.

Frau Auguste Deter was admitted to the asylum upon experiencing changes to her personality at the age of 51. Though she had been married for 28 years, she had begun to express jealousy towards her husband and showed progressive memory loss, as well as expressing some suicidal thoughts, and the thoughts that others were trying to kill her. Her condition worsened over the course of just a few short years, with Frau Deter spending her last years curled up in bed, indifferent, dying of bedsores.

Doctor Alzheimer gave a talk about his discovery in 1906, but the audience gave no indication of caring about the subject matter. It wouldn’t be until 1910, when Alzheimer’s friend and colleague Doctor Emil Kraepelin labelled the disease as Alzheimer’s Disease in his book The Handbook of Psychiatry. Unfortunately Alzheimer took ill in 1912, dying a few weeks later of a heart infection.

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s is a neurodegenerative disease that affects the memory centers of the brain, primarily. Memory problems are usually the first noticeable symptom of the disease, with the progression of the memory loss varying depending on the severity of the disease. It affects both short and long term memory, but not necessarily in equal ways. Other symptoms of the disease include behavioral changes such as withdrawing from activities, becoming confused, depressed, or suspicious of others.

The most notable symptom of Alzheimer’s is memory loss that affects day-to-day living, but having difficulty recalling words or names on a regular basis can be a symptom. Forgetting appointments occasionally could be age related memory loss, but forgetting them all the time may be a sign of something more.

Memory Care Facilities

It can be difficult to live with someone who has Alzheimer’s disease for a long period of time, as they are prone to wandering, mood changes, and other behavioral changes. People with Alzheimer’s also tend to lose the ability to care for themselves in ways such as bathing, dressing, and eating for themselves. Because of these issues, it can be very helpful to find a facility that specializes in memory care. Facilities like Landmark Memory Care are specifically designed to give memory care patients a feeling of being at home, while keeping them safe, happy, and as healthy as possible.

Landmark provides families security in the knowledge that their loved ones are being attended to in the best ways. Each progressive level of care provides a comfortable, safe living space for the residents. There are daily social activities to bring the residents together and exercise their social skills, as well as create a sense of community. Residents are encouraged to walk around the mediation garden, for example, but are protected from wandering away through close monitoring. Landmark makes every effort to keep residents safe and happy.

Support Us in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s

Landmark Memory Care is participating in the Boulder, Colorado Walk to End Alzheimer’s on Saturday August 11th! If you would like to donate to the cause, or to join the Landmark Team, please follow this link to do so. Click on the “Donate” button to donate to the Walk to End Alzheimer’s, or click the “Join” button to join the team.

Walk in the memory of a loved one affected by the disease, or for the possibility of a cure for future generations!

By |2018-06-07T14:21:38+00:00June 7th, 2018|Alzheimer's Education|