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My mother had Alzheimer's and passed away from it 2 years ago. During the past few months my father has developed signs of dementia, quite rapidly from my perspective. His neurologist has recently prescribed Arricept, but it's too early if it has had any effect.

My mother was 81 when she passed away, and my father is 82. Obviously not young, but their parents all lived to their late 80's and passed away of other causes, and I had really expected my parents to remain healthy and active even longer. I have to wonder if it's just a coincidence that they both got dementia at this age.

They were both exceptionally intelligent, active, happy and successful, they travelled extensively to some very remote parts of the world during their 60's and 70's, and occasionally picked up some exotic diseases. Is it possible that some undiagnosed disease has caused my father's problem?

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replied September 24th, 2008
Alzheimer Disease Answer A4736
Dementia, among the other symptoms, can be found in certain brain disorders that are caused either by slow-acting viruses or by protein molecules known as prions. These brain disorders are known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. They are usually manifested a long time after infection but once they occur they develop very rapidly and death occurs in a few weeks or months. Besides impairment of the cognitive functions (dementia), motor functions (movements) are also affected.

Unlike transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, Alzheimer's disease is slowly progressive and mainly affects the cognitive functions (memory, thinking, intelligence, etc.). The patient doesn't die directly from Alzheimer's disease but from the compounding diseases like infections and heart failure.

You may assume an infective brain disease only if your father's dementia is very progressive, accompanied by motor disorders and if death occurs in a few months.

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