Progressive neuro-cognitive disease can often be tragic because of the toll it take son the way individuals are able to interact with their external environments. As situations worsen, cognition is damped upon to a great deal, and the things an individual thought were simple becomes laborious, even almost foreign. Alzheimer’s is no exception to this notion. Starting out with no outward symptoms, Alzheimer’s begins to take effect in the brain, when plaques and tangles are formed. The reason for the formation of these dead proteins and neural tissue fragments is largely unknown, but the presence of the APOE4 gene is said to contribute to the chances of developing both late and early onset Alzheimer’s Disease. Once these plaques and tangles start to take form, there is a deadening of tissue, and a decrease in size of the Alzheimer’s brain.

Image: Alzheimer's Association

Image: Alzheimer’s Association

As things worsen, you may notice the slip of a tongue, the incorrect usage of some words, as well as an ability to recall petty things. This is when things start to enter the domain of perception and memory, and move beyond mere physiological cues in the brain. Individuals may forget things they have just mulled over in a book, or even ask the same question repeatedly, one to receive the same answer. The onset of Alzheimer’s is not a ‘normal’ phenomenon. Some say that the brain ages to turn senile, but as Freud said, we all age to be mellow, and not forgetful. Thus, Alzheimer’s cannot come even close to the framework of normal aging, since it is marked by severe neuro-cognitive decline. Usually, the disease hits those at age 65 and above, but early onset is a possibility in some rare cases.

Spatial and temporal orientations start to fade as the degree of affliction increases. An awareness of the passage of seasons, the times of the day, as well as of meal-times may be lost, which may send an individual into a vortex of imbalance when it comes to their daily routine and the way they interact with their environment. In the more severe final stages, the ability to recognize faces, names, and even the ability to do simple things like eat food may be compromised.


Image: Alzheimer’s Society of Toronto

It is clear that the progressive nature of Alzheimer’s makes it a ruthless disease. What makes it worse is that there is no definitive cure for the condition as of yet. One can, however, use the notions of neuro-rehabilitation, which often involve the development of mindfulness through a sharpening of the brain through simple practices, to alleviate the intensity with which the disease progresses. Recently, research at Washington University has shown that blood tests can reveal the early formation of beta-amyloid in the brain, which basically leads to the accumulation of plaques and tangles. Learning of the tendency to develop the condition can help individuals be healthier in the earlier stages of their lives, and thus be more mindful about the possibility to develop certain conditions like these.

Alzheimer’s really takes a toll on the occupational engagement that an individual has with the environment. When one looks at models of Occupational Engagement, the notion of spirituality, which focuses on the way we interact with our environments, comes at the center. Conditions like Alzheimer’s put a total damper on these notions of existence and self-efficacy, since they progressively act on the modalities through which we make dynamism in our lives possible. Thus, finding a cure may be quite the gargantuan task, but it is something can help those who are fading away from reality without knowing it.