Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia, a degenerative brain disease in which the brain shrinks. Although medical science makes strides toward curing Alzheimer’s, there is no cure on the horizon at this time. Some medical treatments appear to lessen some of the symptoms to a small degree. Society generally anticipates that future studies will find a cure that will repair the damage done in the minds of our loved ones and the hearts of those that care for them.
It should be noted that not all patients show all symptoms, and while there appear to be ten main symptom categories, there are also three phases or degrees of severity. Patients are varied in their responses to the symptoms, responding with denial, blaming others for the results of their actions, to despair or hopelessness and giving in to inevitability.
The 3 Stages of Progression of Alzheimer’s Symptoms:
o Early-stage, also known as mild-stage: The beginning of loss of cognitive skills becomes apparent though the individual can still function.
o Mid-stage, also known as moderate-stage: Large scale decline of mental faculties beginning. Physically the patient starts to lose muscle tone and coordination, causing them to begin to rely on on caregivers both physically and emotionally.
o Late-stage, also known as severe-stage: Here develops a more problematic situation with a complete deterioration of the personality as well as of bodily functions causing an even stronger reliance on caregivers.
10 Alzheimer’s Symptoms
o Forgetfulness or memory loss – as the stages progress so does the intensity.
o Difficulty with abstract thinking – numbers become very problematic
o Disorientation – it is possible to get lost in their neighborhood. They lose their sense of time, date and even recognition of their surroundings.
o Problems with language – simple words are forgotten and the frustration of trying to remember them usually is expressed with anger at the one they’re speaking to; the individual may use descriptive sentences. If they’re asking for a fork they may start describing what the fork does to get the point across. o Poor judgment – bad decisions are often made as the individual still seems in their “right mind” to others. A recent case in Massachusetts focused this problem: A ministry was forced to return over one million dollars to a woman whose family took it to court. The ministry was unaware that the donor was a victim of Alzheimer’s symptoms and unable to judge her actions fully.
o Difficulty performing familiar tasks – unable to turn on the television or use the phone.
o Mood/Behavior changes – may experience extremes in mood changes without explanation.
o Changes in personality – becomes more dependent on the caregivers, along with being fearful, suspicious and confused.
o Losing things – both hides and misplaces things, sometimes accuses others of stealing them when they don’t remember hiding them.
o Lack of participating – becomes very passive as the disease progresses, eventually spending hours watching TV or sleeping.
Alzheimer’s can only be diagnosed by medical personnel. However, learning about symptoms, especially in a family where the disease occurred in previous generations, can help other family members be prepared for inevitably difficult times.