Although science still seems to be a long way from learning why Alzheimer’s disease happens or how to stop it, there is plenty of data about what takes place in the body and brain. This information can be useful to residents of Cedar Rapids and elsewhere who want to know how it can progress from “great” to “needs hospice care.”
Above and Beyond Home Health Care is happy to help people learn all they can about what’s happening and what to expect when someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias, or signs to look for that might indicate that someone may be developing this condition.
Alzheimer’s disease is one of the more challenging health conditions that face many of today’s seniors. It’s progressive and irreversible, and doesn’t just affect people’s minds and bodies but deprives many of them of their memories.
It also is slightly different in how it affects people, especially since in some cases, initial physical problems may have begun years earlier, but they either might be too small to detect or providers may not be looking for Alzheimer’s symptoms in people in their 30s and 40s.
While some people may go through many stages rapidly, others may linger for as long as 20 years in one phase. This can be challenging for caregivers and family members in that they get to have more time with a loved one but they also might be going through a difficult time.
There are also some medical disagreements in the exact number of stages. There is certainly some overlap in symptoms, but a provider can give a good assessment of where someone is and what stages likely are coming next.
With World Alzheimer’s Month taking place in September, it’s a great time to learn more.
The Stages Of Alzheimer’s
WebMD said this first step is characterized by nothing appearing to be different about someone’s behavior or memory. However, a PET scan may show that the brain is already starting to work in different ways, so the person or the people around them may soon to notice changes.
This stage is also called ‘pre-clinical’ by Healthline. It’s when people with high-risk factors or a genetic history of Alzheimer’s should consider the possibility that they may have it in the future and should begin working with their provider to make baseline observations, focus on memory programs and planning ahead for possibilities. This stage may last several years.
Early stage impairment
This stage is characterized by mild impairment and mild memory problems. It often can last 4-5 years. It is also difficult to detect, since forgetting small details or having problems finding the right word all the time are both fairly common in anyone over age 65, regardless of health condition. The Alzheimer’s Association said people are able to function independently, including working or being in social situations. But they may have difficulty finding certain things, remembering details, or planning.
Symptoms become more severe and can take the form of an inability to come up with any words for a situation, more confusion, and greater forgetfulness, especially for recent events. This is all due to a slow deterioration of the brain: older memories are often encoded in different areas and have been part of the brain longer so they’re more difficult to damage as easily as newer info. This point is when people may notice changes in personality, along with higher levels of frustration.
More significant physical and mental changes begin to show up, and personality changes are more noticeable. The patient may now need help with more tasks that used to be performed easier. As the brain deteriorates, there will be more confusion, frustration, and suspicion seen. Memory loss will also be more noticeable and more details from their past will take place. This is also where compulsive behaviors begin to show up and security may become a concern due to a higher possibility of them wandering away without supervision.
Later stage dementia
The Alzheimer’s Association said this final stage is where people begin to be less aware of their environment or have memories or the people around them. In some cases, they may need round-the-clock assistance for a variety of tasks, including eating or using the bathroom. They may not even want to get out of bed. Along with having difficulty remembering, they may not be interested in communicating or have the ability to do so. Due to their weakened mental and physical state, they may be susceptible to illnesses such as pneumonia. They also are more likely to choke as the ability to swallow declines.
Because some people with Alzheimer’s can live years after the diagnosis, it’s useful to begin talking with a trusted provider early on. He or she can provide a variety of ways to reduce how quickly the stages progress or give suggestions on way to delay symptoms, including more mental stimulation, a better diet, and more physical activities. A provider can also make recommendations on when to consider hospice options.
There also may be other Alzheimer’s resources in your community such as a senior center or a chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.
The staff at Above and Beyond Home Health Care is also familiar with how Alzheimer’s can progress in different people and would be happy to discuss various care options.