Alzheimer’s Disease

Posted on Sep 20, 2013 in Health Topics

Alzheimer’s Disease

The course of Alzheimer’s disease is not the same in every person, but symptoms seem to develop over the same general stages. In most people with Alzheimer’s, symptoms first appear after age 60.

Scientists now know that Alzheimer’s progresses on a spectrum with three stages—an early, preclinical stage with no symptoms; a middle stage of mild cognitive impairment (MCI); and a final stage of Alzheimer’s dementia. At this time, doctors cannot predict with any certainty which people with MCI will or will not develop Alzheimer’s.

Very early signs and symptoms

Memory problems are typically one of the first signs of Alzheimer’s disease. Sometimes, other thinking problems, such as trouble finding the right words or poor judgment, are most prominent early on.

Mild Alzheimer’s disease

As the disease progresses, memory loss worsens, and changes in other cognitive abilities are evident. Problems can include:

  • getting lost
  • trouble handling money and paying bills
  • repeating questions
  • taking longer to complete normal daily tasks
  • poor judgment
  • losing things or misplacing them in odd places
  • mood and personality changes

Alzheimer’s disease is often diagnosed at this stage.

Moderate Alzheimer’s disease

In this stage, damage occurs in areas of the brain that control language, reasoning, sensory processing, and conscious thought. Symptoms may include:

  • increased memory loss and confusion
  • problems recognizing family and friends
  • inability to learn new things
  • difficulty carrying out tasks that involve multiple steps (such as getting dressed)
  • problems coping with new situations
  • hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia
  • impulsive behavior

Severe Alzheimer’s disease

People with severe Alzheimer’s cannot communicate and are completely dependent on others for their care. Near the end, the person may be in bed most or all of the time as the body shuts down. Their symptoms often include:

  • inability to communicate
  • weight loss
  • seizures
  • skin infections
  • difficulty swallowing
  • groaning, moaning, or grunting
  • increased sleeping
  • lack of control of bowel and bladder

 

Caring for a person with Alzheimer’s disease is physically, emotionally, and financially challenging . The demands of day-to-day care, changing family roles, and difficult decisions about placement in a care facility can be hard to handle. Researchers have learned much about Alzheimer’s caregiving, and studies are testing new ways to support caregivers.

Becoming well-informed about the disease is one important long-term strategy. Programs that teach families about the various stages of Alzheimer’s and about flexible and practical strategies for dealing with difficult caregiving situations provide vital help to those who care for people with Alzheimer’s.

Good coping skills and a strong support network of family and friends also help caregivers handle the stresses of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease. For example, staying physically active has physical and emotional benefits.

Some Alzheimer’s caregivers have found that participating in a support group is a critical lifeline. Support groups allow caregivers to take a break, express concerns, share experiences, get tips, and receive emotional comfort. Many organizations sponsor in-person and online support groups , including groups for people with early-stage Alzheimer’s and their families. Support networks can be especially valuable when caregivers face the difficult decision of whether and when to place a loved one in a nursing home or assisted living facility.

Source:

http://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/topics/caregiving