Working With Clients With Alzheimer's Disease

by Diane Y. Chapman and D. Osterweil on Jun 01, 2001

Working With ClientsWith Alzheimer's Disease How fitness professionals can use exercise to enhance quality of life in seniors afflicted with this form of dementia. W While advances in medicine have extended our average life expectancy, many of the diseases associated with aging continue to challenge the scientific community. Chief among these is Alzheimer's disease (AD), which primarily afflicts older adults. AD is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, now affecting at least 4 million adults (Institute for Brain Aging 2001). Some experts estimate that 20 million people suffer from AD throughout the world (Nash 2000). The fitness industry stands poised to address the needs of this growing population in ways you may not have even imagined. Indeed, opting to work with people with AD may prove to be one of the most fulfilling business decisions you ever make. If you are a personal trainer, club owner, physical therapist, community activity director or group fitness instructor, you can make a real contribution to those afflicted with AD by creating exercise programs that enhance their quality of life. Doing so will also give you an edge in servicing a growing niche that is ripe with professional possibilities. By Diane Y. Chapman and Dan Osterweil, MD, CMD June 2001 IDEA HEALTH & FITNESS SOURCE The brain of a normal elderly person The brain of an Alzheimer's patient erative disease of the brain that results in impaired memory, thinking and behavior" (Pfizer Inc. & Eisai Inc. 1997). The cause of the disease is unknown, but genetic factors appear to play a role. The disease seems to run in some families and is influenced by several specific gene abnormalities (Berkow 1997). As parts of the brain degenerate, cells are destroyed and those cells that remain become unresponsive to many of the chemicals that transmit signals in the brain (Berkow 1997). The pathology of AD is marked by the presence of brain tissue abnormalities called neurofibrillary tangles and neuritic plaque (Shankel 1999). The abnormal tissue first appears in the hippocampus and entorhinal cortex regions of the brain, then in the cortices of the frontal, parietal and temporal lobes. The hippocampus is the center of the autonomic nervous system; it creates and sends messages to the parts of the body that are needed to complete a desired task. The entorhinal cortex sends messages back and forth between the hippocampus and other parts of the brain. The frontal lobes help control mood and goal setting; the parietal lobes receive and process information about arithmetic, reading and body movement/sensation; and the temporal lobes process information about hearing, memory and language. Another characteristic of AD is the lowered production of brain chemicals such as acetylcholine, norepinephrine, serotonin and somatostatin, all of which affect normal communication between nerve cells. In the past, the only way to definitively diagnose AD was through autopsy. Recently, physicians have begun using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to diagnose the disease and detect its progression. Our Aging Population To understand why cases of AD are multiplying, it is helpful to assess the growth of the senior segment of our population. According to the Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA), the need for services for seniors will expand continuously through the year 2050 owing to the following demographic changes in the U.S. population:

IDEA Health Fitness Source , Volume 2002, Issue 6

© 2001 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

About the Authors

Diane Y. Chapman IDEA Author/Presenter

Diane Y. Chapman is the founder of Words To Your Advantage speaking and writing service in Aliso Viejo, California. She has provided resumé writing services and speaking workshops to fitness pr...

D. Osterweil IDEA Author/Presenter