Alzheimer’s is a common disease that especially affects people as they get older. It can impair a person’s ability to recall information and events, and it can make it nearly impossible to hold down a job. Knowing the signs of Alzheimer’s disease is one of the first steps that a loved one needs to take to get someone with the disease the financial help that they need. And once a person knows more about the symptoms and treatments for the disease, they can get a diagnosis so that they can help their loved one get the disability benefits that they’ll need to continue to pay the bills.
What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
When a person has Alzheimer’s disease, their brain cells are wasting away and dying. Alzheimer’s is also the most common form of dementia. This disease is characterized by a continuous and progressive decline in cognitive functioning that can also affect social skills and general behaviors.
The exact causes of Alzheimer’s disease aren’t entirely known, but more than likely, it’s caused by a combination of genetics, lifestyle, and environmental factors. Most specifically, the disease occurs when certain proteins fail to do the job that they’re there for and unleash toxins within the brain that damage the cells. As these toxins are released and the cells die, the brain actually shrinks. The bonds between neurons are also broken, so they can no longer properly communicate with each other.
Damage usually starts in the regions that are associated with memory, but they can spread out of those areas quickly. And while symptoms might not be present, the damage to the brain actually occurs much before any symptoms are present.
Age is one of the primary risk factors. While it’s possible for people to get Alzheimer’s disease in their middle age years, it’s much more common for people to first notice symptoms when a person is in their 60s and beyond. A family history is another risk factor, with people who have a sibling or parent with Alzheimer’s disease being at a higher likelihood of developing the disease. People with Down’s syndrome and people who engage in certain activities are also at a higher risk. For instance, people who smoke, are obese, have poorly controlled type II diabetes, have poor sleeping patterns, have had head trauma, have high blood pressure, or don’t exercise are also at a higher risk of developing the disease.
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s
One of the first symptoms of Alzheimer’s includes an inability to remember information, such as recent conversations or events. In fact, in these early stages, it’s even common for the person with the disease to be aware of their inability to remember information. As the disease progresses, it’s more likely that those close to the person with the disease to be able to watch the progression. This is common because the memory regions of the brain are the first to be affected by the disease.
Other signs of memory decline include repeating things, forgetting appointments, misplacing things, getting lost in well-known places, and forgetting the names of loved ones and everyday objects.
Symptoms associated with thinking and reasoning are also common. For instance, some people might have difficulties doing math and activities that involve abstract reasoning, such as paying bills and managing finances in general.
As the disease progresses, many people have personality changes. They might show signs of depression, apathy, irritability, loss of inhibitions, and delusional thinking. They might also be more prone to mood swings, social withdrawal, wandering, and changes in sleeping habits.
It’s common for people with Alzheimer’s disease to preserve some skills because the processes occur in areas of the brain that aren’t affected by the disease until later. For instance, it’s common for people to be able to reminisce, read, tell stories, sing, dance, draw, and do crafts.
Treatment for Alzheimer’s
While there’s no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, there are a couple of drugs that doctors can use to treat the symptoms of the disease in the early stages. Cholinesterase inhibitors is one type of drug that doctors can prescribe. It works by preserving the chemicals that the brain uses to send neural messages, which are also depleted in a person with Alzheimer’s disease. This drug can often provide moderate benefits to memory and can sometimes help with mood symptoms, such as aggression and agitation.
Memantine is another drug that doctors can prescribe. Typically, it’s used on people with moderate to severe dementia as a means of slowing the symptoms. Doctors will also prescribe antidepressants as another way to control the mood-related symptoms.
It’s especially important for people with Alzheimer’s disease to have a supportive and calm environment that’s conducive to their needs. For instance, minimizing activities that require abstract reasoning skills and maximizing everyday routines can make taking care of the person with Alzheimer’s disease easier, and it will often make the patient happier.
There are several steps that caretakers and loved ones can take to make life easier for the patient. For instance, automating payments, keeping everyday things in the same places, securing medications in places where the patient can’t find them, and using a calendar to track activities are all common techniques that caretakers and loved ones implement to make life easier and safer.
Disability Benefits for Alzheimer’s
Getting benefits from the Social Security Administration for Alzheimer’s disease is somewhat dependent on a person’s age. People with early-onset Alzheimer’s will apply through the SSA differently than people who are over the age of 65 because people above this age are no longer covered under Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income. Instead, people over the age of 65 are able to start collecting Social Security retirement benefits. There are some ways that people over the age of 65 can apply and receive disability benefits instead of retirement benefits, and this might also be advantageous for some individuals, but there are extra distinctions that the Social Security Administration will be evaluating when they’re determining whether or not to pay out for disability insurance.
For people under the age of 65, they can follow the Blue Book listing for Alzheimer’s disease. In order to receive benefits, the applicant must show evidence that the disease severely impacts their ability to do their job. Some of the criteria that will be evaluated include short-term memory, ability to use language, ability to pay attention and listen to others, social cognition and behavior, ability to plan and judge, and physical coordination.
In addition to having severe limitations in at least one of the above criteria, the applicant must also have a marked limitation in two of the following areas or a severe limitation in one of them. These areas include the ability to learn new tasks and apply knowledge, ability to concentrate and complete tasks within a reasonable time frame, ability to have practical skills and make plans for oneself, and the ability to interact with others in socially acceptable ways.
How We Can Help
There are several ways in which the team at Osterhout Berger Disability Law can help you receive the benefit you deserve. We help individuals who need to…
- Apply for Social Security Benefits and want to ensure everything is done right the first time
- Appeal a denial of Social Security Disability Benefits
- Appeal an existing denial of Long Term Disability (LTD) Benefits
If you are facing one of these situations due to Alzheimer’s, please do not hesitate in reaching out. Our team of experienced attorneys are here to help, and your consultation is free.