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Dr. Ghourm's Forum!

December 2000

A note from The field of medicine is constantly evolving. As a result, parts of this article may be outdated. Please keep this in mind, and be sure to visit other parts of our site for more recent information!


First let me extend to all our friends and well-wishers a Happy Holiday! This article will serve a twofold purpose. I'll begin by giving some information on an opportunistic infection called AIDS Dementia Complex (ADC) and then we'll focus on an outstanding agency called the Alzheimer's Association Safe Return Program, that will give assistance to persons suffering from AIDS Dementia Complex.

The Facts about AIDS Dementia Complex (ADC)

AIDS Dementia Complex is one of the frequent and serious neurological complications of HIV. It is characterized by cognitive dysfunction (trouble with concentration, memory, and attention), declining motor performance (strength, dexterity, coordination), and behavioral changes. It occurs primarily in more advanced HIV infections when the CD4 cell counts are relatively low. While the progression of dysfunction is variable, it is regarded as a serious complication historically predicting death in less than one year. Diagnosis is made by neurologists who carefully rule out alternative diagnoses. This routinely requires a careful neurological examination, brain scan (MRI or CT), and a lumbar puncture to evaluate the cerebrospinal fluid. No single test is available to confirm the diagnosis, but the constellation of history, laboratory findings, and examination reliably establishes the diagnosis when performed by experienced clinicians.

The cause of ADC is not fully known at present. Presence of the HIV virus is required, and there is good evidence that successful antiretroviral therapy, if started early enough, can induce a degree of improvement in neurologic performance. Evidence that antiviral therapy prevents ADC is incomplete and in some cases contradictory. However, most investigators recommend at a minimum that aggressive antiretroviral therapy with maximally CNS penetrating drugs be used when this diagnosis is likely. Since the amount of virus in the brain does not correlate well with the degree of dementia, most investigators believe that secondary mechanisms are also important in the manifestation of ADC.


Help for Those with Alzheimer's Disease

It is my pleasure to spotlight a wonderful organization called the Alzheimer's Association. The mission of the Greater Georgia Alzheimer's Association is to provide specialized programs and services that will help people with Alzheimer's disease and those who care for them better cope with the day-to-day challenges of the disease. The mission is carried out through the dedicated efforts of the chapter's board, staff and volunteers, and through the generous support of thousands of community members who open their hearts each year to support the chapter with financial contributions. The greater Georgia Chapter stands by people with Alzheimer's disease and those who care for them with a wide range of programs and services.

In their 94-county territory, approximately 130,000 individuals are diagnosed with this disease. For every person diagnosed with Alzheimer's or another dementia, from two to five other family members or friends are affected as well. Although 96% of these individuals say caregiving is a "labor of love," more than anything they would like someone to share the burden of caregiving from time to time.

That's why the Georgia Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association is here -- to lighten the burden of caregiving through personalized support, education and training, advocacy, and contributions to research for the prevention, cure, and treatment of this disease.

The Greater Georgia Alzheimer's Association has a great program called Safe Return. Safe Return is a nationwide identification system established to assist in the safe and timely return of individuals with Alzheimer's, or a related dementia, who wander and become lost. Safe Return provides assistance whether a person becomes lost locally or far from home. A specially trained Safe Return staff person is available 24 hours a day at 800-572-1122 for assistance whenever a person is lost or found. Identification jewelry is sent for the person with memory loss to wear. When the person with loss wanders and is found wearing the identification jewelry, the person who finds the lost person calls the 1-800 number, and the person is safely returned to their caregiver. Registration is free to anyone living within the state of Georgia. Free registration is for a limited time only, and only for the first 500 registrants. The free registration is only available when the registration form is returned directly to the Greater Georgia Chapter office. Caregivers are also eligible to register for "Caregiver Jewelry" free of charge.

In order to register someone for Safe Return, you must complete a Safe Return registration form

Find a recent photo and write your loved one's name on the back. Return completed registration form and photo to:

Greater Georgia Chapter
1925 Century Boulevard, Suite 10
Atlanta, Georgia 30345
Attn: Dottie McKenney

The Safe Return jewelry should arrive at your home within approximately two to four weeks. For more information, and/or to obtain a Safe Return registration form, please contact the Greater Georgia Chapter at 404-728-1181, toll-free outside the metro Atlanta area at 888-649-7800, or e-mail them at

Is it Alzheimer's Disease?

10 Warning Signs

  1. Memory loss that affects day-to-day function
    It's normal to occasionally forget appointments, colleagues' names or a friend's phone number and remember them later. A person with Alzheimer's disease may forget things more often and not remember them later, especially things that have happened more recently.

  2. Difficulty performing familiar tasks
    Busy people can be so distracted from time to time that they may leave the carrots on the stove and only remember to serve them at the end of the meal. A person with Alzheimer's disease may be unable to prepare any part of a meal or forget they ate it.

  3. Problems with language
    Everyone has trouble finding the right word sometimes, but a person with Alzheimer's disease may forget simple words or substitute inappropriate words, making his or her sentences difficult to understand.

  4. Disorientation of time and place
    It's normal to forget the day of the week or your destination -- for a moment. But a person with Alzheimer's disease can become lost on his or her own street, not knowing how they got there or how to get home.

  5. Poor or decreased judgement
    People may sometimes put off going to a doctor if they have an infection but eventually seek medical attention. A person with Alzheimer's disease may not recognize the infection as a problem or go to a doctor at all. Or they may dress inappropriately, wearing heavy clothing on a hot day.

  6. Problems with abstract thinking
    From time to time, people may find balancing a checkbook difficult. Someone with Alzheimer's disease could forget what the numbers are and what needs to be done with them. Celebrating a birthday is something many people do, but a person with Alzheimer's disease may not understand what a birthday is.

  7. Misplacing things
    Anyone can temporarily misplace a wallet or keys. A person with Alzheimer's disease may put things in inappropriate places -- an iron in the freezer or a wristwatch in the sugar bowl.

  8. Changes in mood or behavior
    Everyone becomes sad or moody from time to time. Someone with Alzheimer's disease can exhibit rapid mood swings -- from calm to tears to anger -- for no apparent reason.

  9. Change in personality
    People's personalities can change somewhat with age. But a person with Alzheimer's disease can change dramatically, becoming extremely confused, suspicious or withdrawn. Changes may also include apathy, fearfulness or acting inappropriately.

  10. Loss of initiative
    It's normal to tire of housework, business activities or social obligations, but most people regain their initiative. A person with Alzheimer's disease may become very passive, and require cues and prompting to become involved.

A note from The field of medicine is constantly evolving. As a result, parts of this article may be outdated. Please keep this in mind, and be sure to visit other parts of our site for more recent information!

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This article was provided by AIDS Survival Project. It is a part of the publication Survival News.
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