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What Are the Connections Between Down’s Syndrome and Alzheimer’s?

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Studies have shown people with Down’s syndrome have a significantly higher likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease. This makes it exceedingly important for caregivers in Fort Myers to remain watchful for significant changes in behavior and cognitive abilities, particularly as their loved ones grow older. Identify and treating Alzheimer’s early on can have a positive impact on overall quality of life.

People get their genetic material from 23 pairs of chromosomes. Those who have Down’s syndrome have extra genetic material from chromosome 21. More accurately, they have exactly 3 copies of this chromosome instead of the normal 2. This extra copy is believed to be the source of developmental problems and a host of other health issues. Some research has also linked this third copy of chromosome 21 to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

It is important to note that not all people with Down’s syndrome will develop Alzheimer’s as part of the aging process. In autopsies performed on people with Down’s syndrome, researchers have discovered many of these individuals had massive amounts of plaque in their brains along with numerous tangles that resulted from abnormal protein deposits. The development of Alzheimer’s is believed to have a connection with these changes.

People with Down’s syndrome often exhibit many of the same signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s as people without this congenital condition. These include:

  • Less enthusiasm in routine or familiar activities
  • Decreased interest in social engagement
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Shorter attention span and less focus
  • Anxiety, sadness, and fearfulness
  • Aggression and irritability

Loss of memory may or may not occur. This is a key difference between aging adults with both Down’s syndrome and Alzheimer’s and those who do not have a third copy of chromosome 21. Research is still being performed to gain a better understanding of this difference.

If you are providing home care in Fort Myers for an aging loved one with Down’s syndrome, it is important to watch for marked changes in behavior and abilities after the age of 35. Having an Alzheimer’s expert perform a special assessment that includes a series of cognitive tests can help identify the disease early on. You should also remain consistent in scheduling routine physicals for your loved one to rule out other possible causes of Alzheimer’s symptoms like decreased thyroid function, nutritional deficiencies, sleep apnea, and chronic sinus or ear infections.

If your loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, a Fort Myers Alzheimer’s caregiver can help manage the symptoms of the condition. At Home Care Assistance, all of our caregivers are trained in the revolutionary Cognitive Therapeutics Method, an activities-based program specifically designed to help aging adults with memory-related conditions. In addition to cognitive stimulation, our caregivers can also assist your loved one with a wide variety of daily tasks, including cooking, bathing, and exercise. For more information and to schedule a complimentary consultation, call one of our qualified Care Managers today at 239.449.4701