When Alzheimer’s Disease is mentioned many people think of President Ronald Regan who struggled with the illness privately during the last years of his life. Because of Regan’s struggle, a lot of information has been disseminated about Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s is thought of as an “old people’s disease” but it can strike people of all ages. Early-onset Alzheimer’s refers to someone who is diagnosed with the disease and is under 65 years old.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s slowly destroys memory, reasoning and ability to communicate and handle daily activities. In the later stages of the disease, those suffering from Alzheimer’s may be agitated, anxious and delusional and totally dependent on a loved one or caregiver.
Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia, an illness that gradually destroys brain cells. This explains why Grandma may have remembered where she put her purse yesterday but forgot today.
There is not specific test for Alzheimer’s. A doctor usually diagnoses a patient with Alzheimer’s after ruling out other causes for their behavior.
No two Alzheimer’s patients are alike. For some the disease progresses rapidly. Some see it progress slowly, sometimes taking up to 20 years before the disease is in its final stages. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, most patients will go through seven stages:
Stage 1. No impairment
Stage 2. Very mild decline
Stage 3. Mild Decline
Stage 4. Moderate decline (mild or early stage)
Stage 5. Moderately severe decline (moderate or mid-stage)
Stage 6. Severe decline (moderately severe or mid-stage)
Stage 7. Very severe decline (severe or late stage)
The Alzheimer’s Association has compiled a list of warning signs. Memory loss is the most well-known sign. Forgetting names or appointments every so often is normal, but forgetting information that was just given you may be a red flag that something is wrong.
Alzheimer’s patients may not be able to cook their own dinner or they may forget the way to the grocery store. Every day tasks become a struggle for the Alzheimer’s patient.
Alzheimer’s patients may also forget what day it is and where they are. An Alzheimer’s patient may forget how to get home and need assistance.
Many Alzheimer’s patients do things that a normal person would consider erratic. This is why telemarketers prey on the elderly–their lack of judgment may lead them to purchase a siding job for their brick home.
Family members of Alzheimer’s patients may come home and find the patient’s shoes in the oven. it is common for Alzheimer’s patients to misplace things or put them in an unusual place.
Alzheimer’s patients may also spend a lot of time sitting on the couch or may not get out of bed until late in the afternoon. The disease robs them of their desire to be around people. Their mood changes may also affect the Alzheimer’s’ patient’s social relationships, since many have rapid mood swings. These personality changes may happened quickly, leading the Alzheimer’s patient to become dependent on a family member or caregiver.
Anyone who thinks they or their loved one is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease needs to contact their doctor immediately. Doctors have yet to find a cure for Alzheimer’s. Scientists are constantly researching the disease to find new treatments. Until a cure is found, family support and good medical care seems to improve the quality of life for those affected by Alzheimer’s.