about alzheimer’s disease
Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys a person’s memory and thinking skills. In simple terms, Alzheimer’s disease slowly robs a person of their memory as well as their capacity to remain independent adults.
Alzheimer’s falls under the umbrella of dementia and is considered the most common form accounting for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases. It is important to note that Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging. Although most people with the disease start showing signs in their mid-60s, Alzheimer’s can also affect people as young as 40 or 50. This is known as early onset Alzheimer’s.
Someone who has Alzheimer’s disease can live anywhere from a few years to a few decades depending on their age and health. However, it is most common for Alzheimer’s patients to survive about 8 years.
As a progressive disease, Alzheimer’s symptoms develop slowly and worsen gradually over time. The disease is broken down into three stages: mild Alzheimer’s disease, moderate Alzheimer’s disease and severe Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, the changes in the brain that lead to Alzheimer’s actually begin years before any noticeable symptoms. This is known as preclinical Alzheimer’s disease.
During the early-stage, or mild Alzheimer’s disease, the individual may continue living independently. Memory loss is mild and usually includes difficulty remembering recent events or familiar words. Friends and family may begin to notice changes such as difficulty coming up with the right words or names, trouble with planning, organizing or performing specific tasks, and losing or misplacing things.
With time, more symptoms begin to emerge. Known as the middle-stage, or moderate Alzheimer’s disease, this is the longest stage sometimes lasting for many years. As the disease progresses, the individual will become less independent and will require additional help from caregivers. Symptoms are noticeable to others and include trouble communicating, wandering and becoming lost, anger and frustration, considerable mood swings, confusion and disorientation, suspiciousness and delusions, changes in sleep patterns, and an overall hard time completing daily activities.
Eventually, memory and cognitive skills decline to a point where the individual can no longer respond to their environment or carry on a conversation. The Alzheimer patient now has severe Alzheimer’s disease, or late-stage, and has become dependent on a caretaker to provide full-time assistance on a daily basis. Noticeable symptoms include the inability to dress and feed oneself, increased difficulty communicating, the inability to recognize their loved ones, and a decline in physical abilities including walking, sitting and swallowing.
Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. However, there are treatments available that may temporarily help with both cognitive and behavioral symptoms. The use of medications may help lessen symptoms, such as memory loss or confusion. And taking into consideration environmental influences may help with behavioral symptoms.
Alzheimer’s disease is currently the 6th leading cause of death in the United States. Even with a strong treatment plan and round-the-clock care, the progression of Alzheimer’s is inevitable. Many scientist and medical practitioners are working together in order to better understand what causes Alzheimer’s. While taking into consideration genetic, biological, and environmental influences, researchers aim to find a cure and perhaps a way of preventing this devastating disease. Additionally, research is being conducted on an ongoing basis to find new ways to diagnose as well as better treatments to slow progression and improve quality of life.
Sources: Alzheimer’s Association National Institute of Aging
ten early signs of alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s disease affects the brain causing a slow decline in memory, thinking and reasoning skills. If memory problems are affecting your everyday life, this could indicate the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s. There are 10 early signs to be aware of. While each person may be faced with different symptoms and to varying degrees, it’s important to identify these early signs.
The most common sign of Alzheimer’s is memory loss, especially when it disrupts daily life. This may include forgetting important names, dates or events, forgetting information you just learned, asking for the same information over and over, or the increasing need for memory aids (reminders, notes, etc).
Difficulty with planning and problem solving
You may notice changes in the ability follow a plan or problem solve. For example, it may become challenging to follow a familiar recipe or balance a checkbook. It may become difficult to concentrate or complete a detailed task. It may take someone much longer to get things done.
Difficulty completing daily tasks
It may become challenging to complete daily tasks, including tasks you are familiar with. Driving to familiar locations may become confusing, completing an ordinary task at work or at home could become difficult, or forgetting the rules to your favorite game.
Confusion with time or place
You may notice a confusion with dates, seasons, and time. A common symptom is to lose track of time, forget where you are or how you got there, and getting disoriented or lost.
Changes in vision
Vision problems can sometimes be an early sign of Alzheimer’s. Symptoms may include difficulty reading, judging distance, or trouble telling colors apart.
Difficulty with conversations
It may become challenging to follow or join in a conversation. You may repeat yourself, struggle with vocabulary, or have difficulty finding the right words.
Misplacing and losing things
A common early sign of Alzheimer’s is to lose things and be unable to find them. This may include putting things in unusual places or being unable to retrace your steps. Some may even accuse others of taking or stealing their things.
You may notice a change in judgment or decision-making. For instance, giving away large amounts of money when you normally wouldn’t, dressing for the wrong weather, or paying less attention to personal grooming.
An early sign of Alzheimer’s may include removing yourself from social activities, including work, sports, and hobbies. You may lack motivation, prefer to sleep more, or choose to avoid social activities because of the changes you’ve experienced.
Mood or personality changes
Some people with Alzheimer’s experience a change in mood or personality. You may become depressed, anxious, fearful, suspicious, or confused.
Source: Alzheimer’s Association