Prenatal Aspects in Alzheimer's Disease

By Verdult, Rien | Journal of Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology & Health, Summer 2009 | Go to article overview

Prenatal Aspects in Alzheimer's Disease


Verdult, Rien, Journal of Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology & Health


ABSTRACT: Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a degenerative brain disorder characterized by a global mental deterioration. Although the etiology is not yet clear, more evidence shows that a prenatal link is possible. Memory disturbances are central in AD and eventually lead to a loss of autonomy and identity. Anxiety becomes the basic feeling of AD patients, as well as experiences of mourning, loss of control, and loss of contact. In the manifest stage retrogenesis is triggered, that is, patients reverse develop and start to re-live their past. In emotional retrogenesis prenatal and perinatal themes can be reexperienced. In prenatal emotion-oriented care sensorimotor relaxation ('snoezelen') is being used to reduce anxiety. The patient is given an environment that reflects the characteristics of a womb, and the nursing staffs approach should be to symbolize the 'good-enough' mother.

KEY WORDS: Alzheimer's disease, etiology, retrogenesis, prenatal themes, emotionoriented care

INTRODUCTION

Dementia is a clinical syndrome characterized by a global deterioration of mental functioning, afflicting daily life seriously Alzheimer' disease (AD) is the most common cause of dementia. In about 60% of patients Alzheimer's is the main cause of the mental decline. As people increasingly get older, more of them develop Alzheimer's disease. Prevalence rates go up sharply with age, doubling about every 5 years, at least until the age of 85, when the rise begins to slow. It is estimated that 2-5% of people over 65 years of age and up to 20-25% of those over 85 years endure the disease. Worldwide more than 25 million people suffered various forms of dementia in 2000. Some speak of the Alzheimer epidemic. By 2030 it is expected that there will be 63 million patients, and 65% of these will reside in less developed countries (Swedish Council, 2008).

In 1995 1.9 million Americans 64 years or older had AD. By the year 2015, 2.9 million Americans will have this disease, and of these, more than 1.7 million would need active assistance in personal care. In my country of Belgium (10 million inhabitants) 9.3% of people over 65 years of age suffer from AD. The number of AD patients is expected to rise from 160,000 in the year 2001 to 251,000 in the year 2030.

Alzheimer's disease is a progressive, degenerative and irreversible brain disorder that causes intellectual impairment, disorientation and eventually death. AD has a gradual onset and progressive decline. A German doctor, Alois Alzheimer, described the disease in 1905. The patient he detailed was Johann Feigl, a man in his early fifties and who had severe memory problems, challenges in performing everyday tasks, and language difficulties. He was also disoriented as to time and space. And like Mr. Feigl, most Alzheimer patients have problems with abstract thinking, loss of initiative and decreased judgment. There are changes in their personalities, as well as their moods and behaviors.

There are other types of dementia, like dementia with Lewy bodies, which gets its name from tiny structures that develop inside nerve cells, and which trigger the degeneration of brain tissue. Another common cause of dementia, which is responsible for about 20% of the dementias is a vascular disease by which the blood supply to the brain is diminished. Other causes of dementia include: Creutzfeld-Jacob disease, Binswanger's disease, the frontal lobe dementia or Korsakoff's syndrome. This article is limited to Alzheimer' disease (AD) because this group includes the majority of patients and the other diseases lead to minor variations in their experiential world.

At this moment no cure is available for Alzheimer's. A variety of drug treatments claim to show beneficial effects for patients, such as, Cholinesterase inhibitors. However, most drugs have minor and shortterm positive effects in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease, and do not cure the patient. A definitive cure for this degenerative disease is not to be expected within the next two decades. …

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