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Down Syndrome

Down syndrome is a condition in which a person is born with an extra copy of chromosome 21. People with Down syndrome can have physical problems, as well as intellectual disabilities. Every person born with Down syndrome is different.

People with the syndrome may also have other health problems. They may be born with heart disease. They may have dementia. They may have hearing problems and problems with the intestines, eyes, thyroid, and skeleton.

The chance of having a baby with Down syndrome increases as a woman gets older. Down syndrome cannot be cured. Early treatment programs can help improve skills. They may include speech, physical, occupational, and/or educational therapy. With support and treatment, many people with Down syndrome live happy, productive lives.

NIH: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

Memory

Every day, you have different experiences and you learn new things. Your brain cannot store all of that information, so it has to decide what is worth remembering. Memory is the process of storing and then remembering this information. There are different types of memory. Short-term memory stores information for a few seconds or minutes. Long-term memory stores it for a longer period of time.

Memory doesn't always work perfectly. As you grow older, it may take longer to remember things.

It's normal to forget things once in a while. We've all forgotten a name, where we put our keys, or if we locked the front door. If you are an older adult who forget things more often than others your age, you may have mild cognitive impairment. Forgetting how to use your phone or find your way home may be signs of a more serious problem, such as:

  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Other types of dementia
  • Stroke
  • Depression
  • Head injuries
  • Blood clots or tumors in the brain
  • Kidney, liver, or thyroid problems
  • Reactions to certain medicines

If you're worried about your forgetfulness, see your health care provider.

NIH: National Institute on Aging

Progressive Supranuclear Palsy

What is progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP)?

Progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) is a rare brain disease. It happens because of damage to nerve cells in the brain. PSP affects your movement, including control of your walking and balance. It also affects your thinking and eye movement.

PSP is progressive, which means that it gets worse over time.

What causes progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP)?

The cause of PSP is unknown. In rare cases, the cause is a mutation in a certain gene.

One sign of PSP is abnormal clumps of tau in nerve cells in the brain. Tau is a protein in your nervous system, including in nerve cells. Some other diseases also cause a buildup of tau in the brain, including Alzheimer's disease.

Who is at risk for progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP)?

PSP usually affects people over 60, but in some cases it can start earlier. It is more common in men.

What are the symptoms of progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP)?

Symptoms are very different in each person, but they may include:

  • A loss of balance while walking. This is often the first symptom.
  • Speech problems
  • Trouble swallowing
  • A blurring of vision and problems controlling eye movement
  • Changes in mood and behavior, including depression and apathy (a loss of interest and enthusiasm)
  • Mild dementia
How is progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP0 diagnosed?

There is no specific test for PSP. It can be difficult to diagnose, because the symptoms are similar to other diseases such as Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease.

To make a diagnosis, your health care provider will take your medical history and do physical and neurological exams. You may have an MRI or other imaging tests.

What are the treatments for progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP)?

There is currently no effective treatment for PSP. Medicines may reduce some symptoms. Some non-drug treatments, such as walking aids and special glasses, may also help. People with severe swallowing problems may need gastrostomy. This is a surgery to insert a feeding tube into the stomach.

PSP gets worse over time. Many people become severely disabled within three to five years after getting it. PSP isn't life-threatening on its own. It can still be be dangerous, because it increases your risk of pneumonia, choking from swallowing problems, and injuries from falling. But with good attention to medical and nutritional needs, many people with PSP can live 10 or more years after the first symptoms of the disease.

NIH: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

Advance Directives

What kind of medical care would you want if you were too ill or hurt to express your wishes? Advance directives are legal documents that allow you to spell out your decisions about end-of-life care ahead of time. They give you a way to tell your wishes to family, friends, and health care professionals and to avoid confusion later on.

A living will tells which treatments you want if you are dying or permanently unconscious. You can accept or refuse medical care. You might want to include instructions on:

  • The use of dialysis and breathing machines
  • If you want to be resuscitated if your breathing or heartbeat stops
  • Tube feeding
  • Organ or tissue donation

A durable power of attorney for health care is a document that names your health care proxy. Your proxy is someone you trust to make health decisions for you if you are unable to do so.

NIH: National Cancer Institute

Assisted Living

Assisted living is housing and services for people who need some help with daily care. They may need help with things like dressing, bathing, taking their medicines, and cleaning. But they do not need the medical care that a nursing home provides. Assisted living allows the residents to live more independently.

Assisted living facilities sometimes have other names, such as adult care facilities or residential care facilities. They vary in size, with as few as 25 residents up to 120 residents or more. The residents usually live in their own apartments or rooms and share common areas.

The facilities usually offer a few different levels of care. Residents pay more for the higher levels of care. The types of services they offer may be different from state to state. The services may include:

  • Up to three meals a day
  • Assistance with personal care, such as bathing, dressing, eating, getting in and out of bed or chairs, moving around, and using the bathroom
  • Help with medicines
  • Housekeeping
  • Laundry
  • 24-hour supervision, security, and on-site staff
  • Social and recreational activities
  • Transportation

The residents are usually older adults, including those with Alzheimer's or other types of dementia. But in some cases, residents may be younger and have mental illnesses, developmental disabilities, or certain medical conditions.

NIH: National Institute on Aging