November is Alzheimer’s Awareness month and is a very in-depth illness that affects many people around the world. This illness is a progressive, degenerative disorder causing the brain cells to waste away and in time die.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, which is a continuous decline in thinking, behavior, and social skills that disturb a person’s ability to function independently and contributes to 60-70% of all the cases. The numbers of those affected by Alzheimer’s are staggering. 5.5 million people of all ages, 5.3 million being 65 and older battle with this illness. Sadly, 200,000 individuals that are younger than 65 years old, deal with early onset Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s effects women more than it does men, being two-thirds of people battling with Alzheimer’s are women.
There are 7 stages of Alzheimer’s disease that I am going to explain, just to give you a better understanding of this illness and what the individual and their families go through.
- Stage 1 does not involve any impairment. There are no symptoms of dementia or memory loss during this stage.
- Stage 2 involves a very mild decline. Minor memory loss can be detected at this stage, which can cause the individual to misplace things. The memory loss can’t be easily distinguished between typical age-related memory loss and memory loss due to Alzheimer’s. At this point the individual can still do fairly well on memory tests.
- Stage 3 consists of a mild decline in cognitive issues. Not only are changes in cognitive functions noticed by physician, but memory tests are affected more so. The difficulties at this stage include: finding the right words during a conversation, organizing and planning, remembering names of new acquaintances and or frequently losing personal possessions.
- Stage 4 shows a moderate decline and clear-cut symptoms are apparent. The difficulties during the stage include problems with simple arithmetic, poor short-term memory such as remembering what they had for lunch, irritability to manage finances to pay bills and forgetting details about their own life.
- Stage 5 begins to show a moderately severe decline in cognitive functions. Even though the individual can normally still function independently, they may start needing assistance with daily activities. The challenges may include difficulty dressing appropriately and or an inability to remember details about themselves such as their address and phone number. The person usually still knows family members and some personal history details. Although memory continues to be an issue, long-term memory such as childhood and youth is less of an issue.
- Stage 6 is at a point of severe decline and person needs constant supervision. The obstacles at this stage include confusion or unawareness of surroundings, unable to recognize faces, but can recall closest friends and family, loss of bladder and bowel control, major personality changes and behavior problems, require assistance with activities of daily living like toileting and bathing. At this stage wandering may become an issue, requiring one-on-one supervision.
- Stage 7 is the final stage and the most severe decline occurs. There are a few complications involved with stage that include lose ability to communication or respond, the person has no insight to their condition, may utter only words or phrases, assistance with daily activities is needed and unfortunately death imminent.
When dealing with Alzheimer’s disease, there are various symptoms a person may experience. Of course each person will experience this illness in different ways, time lines and severities. Now, please allow me to explain the symptoms and what can be expected regarding the memory, thinking and reasoning, judgment and decision making, planning and performing tasks and personality and behavior changes.
Memory is one of the key symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. It is completely normal to experience memory loss, like forgetting where you left your keys, but memory associated with this disease persists and worsens which affects functions at work and home. Early on a person finds it difficult to remember recent events or conversations. There are a few things one with Alzheimer’s disease may do that are in regards to the functions of memory:
- Repeat statements or questions
- Forget conversations, appointments and events
- Misplace personal items and put them in illogical places
- Get lost in familiar places
- Struggle to find the words to identify objects, express thoughts and or participate in conversations
- In time, forget the names of family and friends
The ability of thinking and reasoning becomes challenging. Other things that may become difficult are:
- Concentrating and thinking
- Managing finances, balancing a checkbook and paying bills
- Inability to recognize numbers, even their own phone number
Good judgement and decision making becomes even more difficult. This includes, but not limited to the following:
- Ability to make a logical decision
- Poor choices with social interactions
- May wear inappropriate clothing
Planning and performing familiar tasks become hard to complete. As the disease progresses, routine tasks requiring things to be done in a sequential manner, such planning and cooking a meal, will become difficult. In time people with Alzheimer’s disease may forget how to perform normal daily tasks like bathing and getting dressed and in turn need a caretaker.
Personality and behavior changes are very common because the changes in the brain can and do affect mood and behavior. Other issues a person may deal with associated with this are:
- Social withdrawal
- Distrust in others
- Mood swings
- Irritability and aggressiveness
- Loss of inhibitions
- Loss of empathy
The causes related to Alzheimer’s disease are not completely understood yet. However, scientists believe the cause is a combination of genetics, lifestyle and environmental factors that over time affect the brain. It is understood there are problems with brain proteins that fail to function normally and disrupt the work of brain cells.
Unfortunately, there is not one single test used to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease. Doctors will look at the signs and symptoms present, view medical history and rule out any other conditions before they conclude on a diagnosis.
A cognitive test will be completed with the physician. On a cognitive assessment all of the following must be present and severe enough to affect daily life:
- Gradual memory loss and progressive cognitive impairment
- Questions that are asked during cognitive are:
- What is your age?
- What time is it?
- What is the year?
- What is your date of birth?
- What is the name of the town you are in?
- Can you recognize 2 people in the room?
- Name the president
- Count backwards from 20 to 1
Genetic testing may be appropriate to confirm diagnosis. A gene known as the APOE-04 is associated with higher chances of people over age 65 developing Alzheimer’s.
Currently there is no known cure for Alzheimer’s and the death of brain cells can’t be reversed. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, it is important to follow a daily routine. It may also be helpful to be involved with activities and day-care programs and also have involvement with support groups and services.
While there are no diseases modifying drugs available, but there are some options that may reduce symptoms and improve quality of life. Choline Sterase inhibitors are approved for symptomatic relief. The medications are called Donepezil (Aricept), Rivastigmine (Exelon) and Tacrina (Cognex).
There is a lot of help available for the person with Alzheimer’s and their families. You can call 24/7 a hotline 800-272-3900. There is also online help available and a library of information available at https://www.alz.org/help-support/resources/virtual_library.
Thank you so much for stopping by my site today. I do hope the information I have shared was beneficial. I do look forward to reading your comments and know your insight will be great. Please remember that I am always sending y’all LOTS of love , comfort, and many positive vibes.
At the bottom of this page, I have included a few books and other tools that might be helpful if you ever have to deal with this disease!