Understanding the Symptoms of an Alzheimer’s Diagnosis6 min read
There are currently 5.7 million Americans that are living with Alzheimer’s disease, and every 65 seconds someone in the United States is develops it. This means, chances are, you know an individual suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. If you do, it’s important to know what it is and how it progresses. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are some early signs and symptoms that you can look for in a loved one to see if they are developing Alzheimer’s disease, namely: memory loss that disrupts daily life, challenges in planning or problem solving, difficulty completing once familiar tasks, confusion with time or place, trouble understanding virtual images and spatial relationships, new problems with words in speaking or writing, misplacing things or losing the ability to retrace steps, decreased or poor judgment, withdrawal from work or social activities, and changes in mood and personality. If someone you know is showing any of these symptoms repeatedly, especially an older person, it may be time for them go see a doctor.
What is Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, accounting for about 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases, and it is centered in the brain. According to the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation, “The cause of brain cell (i.e., neuron) death and/or its location in the brain define whether the dementia is Alzheimer’s disease or another type and in Alzheimer’s neurons are first lost in the hippocampus.” The hippocampus is the place in the brain where memory and learning happen. It is “a progressive disease that destroys memory and other important mental functions.”
Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease
There are seven stages of Alzheimer’s disease according to the experts at the Alzheimer’s Association. Below, we’ve outlined what to expect during each of these stages.
- The first stage is the no impairment stage. During this stage a person has no memory problems and is functioning normally.
- The second stage shows a very mild decline in cognitive function. No symptoms of dementia are typically noticed during this stage, however, as they are often mistaken for normal age-related changes in cognitive function.
- The third state shows mild cognitive decline and, in some cases, doctors can make an early-stage Alzheimer’s diagnosis at this point. There is a noticeable difference in mental ability during the third stage and the early warning symptoms mentioned above start to show more prominently. Tasks like organizing a plan or remembering recently learned information start to become more difficult.
- The fourth stage is moderate cognitive decline. During this stage there are clear, regular symptoms relating to memory loss. Forgetting recent events, moodiness, and difficulty with simple mental math may begin during the fourth stage.
- The fifth stage is moderately severe cognitive decline. Noticeable gaps in memory begin, including misremembering or forgetting minor aspects of the individual’s own personal history. During this stage, individuals with Alzheimer’s will start needing help with everyday activities such as choosing weather-appropriate clothing, but the individual is still likely to remember more significant pieces of family history and maintain the ability to perform simple tasks such as using the restroom or brushing teeth.
- The sixth stage is characterized by severe cognitive decline: memory continues to worsen and there may be some stark personality changes. This is also when many with Alzheimer’s begin losing bladder or bowel function, require assistance in the restroom, tend to wander, and have difficulty identifying once familiar names or remembering important aspects of their personal history.
- The last stage of Alzheimer’s is very severe cognitive decline. This is the final stage of the disease and individuals with Alzheimer’s “lose the ability to respond to their environment, to carry on a conversation and, eventually, to control movement.” Individuals require constant care during this stage to ensure their safety and health.
Alzheimer’s disease affects millions of people every day and it is important to understand what’s going on with your loved ones who are affected by it. The better you understand the disease, the easier it will be to help them get the care that they need. If you have a loved one in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease who is able to function, but who may need some help soon, call Optimal Home Care to see if in home care is the right option for your family.