With current scientific capabilities, it takes years to detect if an elderly person is developing dementia. Scientists are currently researching methods to recognize more subtle changes in elderly peoples’ behavior and mobility that might precede memory loss in identifying Alzheimer’s. Today’s medications can only temporarily alleviate the symptoms once they are identified, and by that point, many elderly are forced to reside in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. If the disease can be detected earlier, doctors may be able to slow the brain’s inevitable decay. In response to this theory, dozens of early diagnosis methods are being developed and studied. For instance, one study is placing motion sensors in the homes of 300 elderly people, which can be attached to doorways, walls and even refrigerators. The goal is to determine if constant monitoring of the movements and actions of elderly people can lead to clues or early detection.
Early indicators may include variations in walking speed, slowing down at dressing or typing, and forgetting to take medication. Some studies are asking participants to take frequent cognitive exams. As America’s population is aging, it is important to study ways to keep people healthy and out of the already understaffed and inattentive nursing homes. Life in homes can be especially difficult for residents with memory and cognitive loss as they are targets for abuse, neglect and exploitation – even if carefully monitored by loved ones.
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