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Everything You Need to Know About Alzheimer's Disease

Updated: Nov 8, 2023

Elderly man walking away from the camera

What exactly is Alzheimer's?

Alzheimer's is a degenerative brain illness characterized by complex brain changes induced by cell destruction, according to the Alzheimer's Association. It causes dementia symptoms that increase with time. Because Alzheimer's often affects the area of the brain linked with learning, the most common symptom is difficulty remembering new information.

Alzheimer's disease progresses through three stages: early (mild), middle (moderate), and late (severe). As Alzheimer's disease progresses, symptoms such as disorientation, confusion, and behavioral abnormalities might become more severe. At its most advanced state, Alzheimer's disease can make it impossible for a person to speak, walk, or even swallow. Alzheimer's disease currently has no recognized cure or preventive.

The Alzheimer's Disease Stages

Early Stage Alzheimer's is when a person can still operate independently. He or she may continue to drive, work, and participate in social events. However, the individual may feel as if they are experiencing little memory lapses.

Middle-stage Alzheimer's is the most severe stage and can linger for many years. During this time, dementia symptoms become more obvious; the person may misinterpret words, become frustrated or furious, and act in unexpected ways, such as refusing to bathe. Damage to the brain's nerve cells can also make it difficult for a person to express thoughts, and complete regular tasks without assistance. The person can still participate in daily activities with support at the middle stage.

Late-stage Alzheimer's disease causes severe dementia symptoms. Individuals lose their capacity to respond to their surroundings, hold a conversation, and control their mobility. It becomes harder to communicate discomfort, and substantial personality changes may develop when memory and cognitive skills deteriorate.

Caring for someone with Alzheimer's or dementia can be difficult. Here are some guidelines for dealing with someone with dementia as a professional caregiver or as a family caregiver, especially on days when they may get irritable or angry:

  • Maintain a schedule by showering, dressing, and eating at the same time every day.

  • Assist the individual with writing down to-do lists, appointments, and events in a notepad or calendar.

  • Plan activities that the individual will appreciate and try to do them at the same time every day.

  • Consider a system or reminders to assist folks who must take prescriptions on a regular basis.

  • Allow the person to do as much as possible when dressing or bathing.

  • Purchase clothing that is loose-fitting, comfortable, and easy to use, such as outfits with elastic waistbands, fabric closures, or giant zipper pulls instead of shoelaces, buttons, or buckles.

  • To assist an unsteady person and prevent falls, use a strong shower chair. Shower chairs are available at medication stores and medical supply stores.

  • Always be gentle and respectful. Tell the person what you're going to do step by step while you assist them with bathing or dressing.

  • Serve meals in a constant, familiar location and allow ample time for the person to eat.

  • Assure the individual. Speak clearly. Pay attention to his or her worries and frustrations. If the person is furious or afraid, try to demonstrate that you understand.

  • Allow the individual to maintain as much control over his or her life as feasible.

  • Respect the individual's personal space.

  • Include quiet times as well as activities throughout your day.

  • Keep sentimental items and photographs about the house to make the person feel more safe.

  • If the person doesn't remember who you are, remind him or her, but don't say, "Don't you remember?"

As we get older, it's also vital to keep an eye out for indicators of Alzheimer's or dementia in loved ones or even oneself. Age is the most significant risk factor for Alzheimer's disease. It is critical to distinguish between changes in the brain caused by dementia or Alzheimer's disease and those caused by aging.

The Alzheimer's Association has identified 10 early indications and symptoms of Alzheimer's disease that you or a loved one should be aware of. Consult your doctor if you detect any of these symptoms.

Memory loss that disrupts daily life: One of the most common signs of Alzheimer’s disease, especially in the early stage, is forgetting recently learned information. Others include forgetting important dates or events, asking for the same questions over and over, and increasingly needing to rely on memory aids (e.g., reminder notes or electronic devices) or family members for things they used to handle on their own. What's a typical age-related change? Sometimes forgetting names or appointments but remembering them later. Challenges in planning or solving problems: Some people living with dementia may experience changes in their ability to develop and follow a plan or work with numbers. They may have trouble following a familiar recipe or keeping track of monthly bills. They may have difficulty concentrating and take much longer to do things than they did before. What's a typical age-related change? Making occasional errors when managing finances or household bills. Difficulty Completing familiar tasks: People with Alzheimer's often find it hard to complete daily tasks. Sometimes they may have trouble driving to a familiar location, organizing a grocery list or remembering the rules of a favorite game. What's a typical age-related change? Occasionally needing help to use microwave settings or to record a TV show. Confusion with time or place: People living with Alzheimer's can lose track of dates, seasons and the passage of time. They may have trouble understanding something if it is not happening immediately. Sometimes they may forget where they are or how they got there. What's a typical age-related change? Getting confused about the day of the week but figuring it out later. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships: For some people, having vision problems is a sign of Alzheimer's. This may lead to difficulty with balance or trouble reading. They may also have problems judging distance and determining color or contrast, causing issues with driving. What's a typical age-related change? Vision changes related to cataracts. New problems with words in speaking or writing: People living with Alzheimer's may have trouble following or joining a conversation. They may stop in the middle of a conversation and have no idea how to continue or they may repeat themselves. They may struggle with vocabulary, have trouble naming a familiar object or use the wrong name (e.g., calling a "watch" a "hand-clock"). What's a typical age-related change? Sometimes having trouble finding the right word. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps: A person living with Alzheimer's disease may put things in unusual places. They may lose things and be unable to go back over their steps to find them again. He or she may accuse others of stealing, especially as the disease progresses. What's a typical age-related change? Misplacing things from time to time and retracing steps to find them. Decreased or poor judgment: Individuals may experience changes in judgment or decision-making. For example, they may use poor judgment when dealing with money or pay less attention to grooming or keeping themselves clean. What's a typical age-related change? Making a bad decision or mistake once in a while, like neglecting to change the oil in the car. Withdrawal from work or social activities: A person living with Alzheimer’s disease may experience changes in the ability to hold or follow a conversation. As a result, he or she may withdraw from hobbies, social activities or other engagements. They may have trouble keeping up with a favorite team or activity. What's a typical age-related change? Sometimes feeling uninterested in family or social obligations. Changes in mood and personality: Individuals living with Alzheimer’s may experience mood and personality changes. They can become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious. They may be easily upset at home, with friends or when out of their comfort zone. What's a typical age-related change? Developing very specific ways of doing things and becoming irritable when a routine is disrupted.

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