Mental Health Month – Why a medical ID is important for those with Alzheimer’s or other dementia

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May is Mental Health Month

Since 1949, Mental Health Awareness Month has been observed in May by reaching millions of people in the United States through the media, local events, and screenings.  The purpose of Mental Health Month  is to raise awareness about mental illnesses, and to educate communities about psychological disorders, while reducing the stigma that surrounds them.  While Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementia are not typically the first things that come to mind while discussing Mental Health Month, they are very much a part of it.

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is the most common cause of dementia in older people.  A dementia is a medical condition that disrupts the way the brain works.  AD affects the parts of the brain that control thought, memory, and language.  Although the risk of getting the disease increases with age, it is not a normal part of aging.  At present the cause of the disease is unknown and there is no cure.

AD is named after Dr. Alois Alzheimer, a German psychiatrist.  In 1906, Dr. Alzheimer described changes in the brain tissue of a woman who had died of an unusual mental illness.  He found abnormal deposits (now called senile or neuritic plaques) and tangled bundles of nerve fibers (now called neurofibrillary tangles).  These plaques and tangles in the brain have come to be characteristic brain changes due to AD.

Symptoms Include:

  • Initial mild forgetfulness
  • Confusion with names and simple mathematical problems
  • Forgetfulness to do simple everyday tasks, i.e., brushing their teeth
  • Problems speaking, understanding, reading and writing
  • Behavioral and personality changes
  • Aggressive, anxious, or aimless behavior

Statistics

It is estimated that currently 4 million people in the United States may have Alzheimer’s disease.  The disease usually begins after age 65 and risk of AD goes up with age.  While younger people may have AD, it is much less common.  About 3% of men and women ages 65-74 have AD and nearly half of those over age 85 could have the disease.

Why is a Medical ID important for those with Alzheimer’s Disease or Other Dementia?

Six in 10 people with dementia will wander.  Anyone who has memory problems and is able to walk is at risk for wandering.  Even in the early stages of dementia, a person can become disoriented or confused for a period of time.   Coupled with memory loss and confusion, wandering puts people with Alzheimer’s and other dementia at higher risk of getting lost or injured.  Individuals with dementia who wander are also at higher risk of accidental death, likely due to the lack of recognition of harmful situations and delays in seeking medical attention.  A person with Alzheimer’s may not even remember his or her name or address.  It’s important to plan ahead for this type of situation.  A medical ID bracelet can provide succinct information about individuals with dementia if they become lost or injured.

Prepare yourself or your loved one by having a medical ID bracelet that will let the first responders and medical staff know who to call and how to make the  appropriate medical decisions that can save a life.  A medical ID can make a huge difference during an emergency situation or wandering event.

Sources: Mental Health America, Alzheimer’s Association

About Amanda Beck

Amanda Beck writes for American Medical ID on a variety of topics relating to health care and healthy living, especially for those whose medical conditions warrant an emergency ID.