Alzheimer’s disease is far from completely understood by biomedical researchers. The evident facts, however, are astounding. Since 2000, deaths due to Alzheimer’s disease have spiked 145 percent, making this brain disease the sixth leading cause of death here in the United States.
What is Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s disease affects a person’s memory, thinking and behavior. As a form of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease is thought to develop when brain cells die. Of the 100 billion nerve cells, the groups of nerve cells responsible for thinking processes are killed off when Alzheimer’s disease advances.
Biomedical researchers are not yet sure of what leads to brain cell deaths, but they suspect plaques and tangles in the brain increase in people who develop Alzheimer’s disease. These plaques and tangles especially affect areas of the brain where memory occurs and then destructively spread to other regions of the brain.
Alzheimer’s disease is unpreventable; still, a mere 16 percent of elderly individuals receive a cognitive assessment during physician checkups. Older adults who display signs of Alzheimer’s disease undergo several stages, from no dementia prior to diagnosis to severe cognitive decline at the final stage.
The Stages of Alzheimer’s
Stage 1: No Impairment
In the pre-clinical stage, Alzheimer’s disease symptoms are virtually imperceptible. The brain, however, begins to undergo slight changes. Minor problems with memory and other symptoms of the disease, although present, go unnoticed. This initial stage can last for several years.
The individual functions independently. The individual may still be able to drive and engage in social activities without issue. At the same time, the person will experience mild lapses in memory. Forgetting familiar words or misplacing everyday items is common during the first stage of Alzheimer’s disease.
Stage 2: Very Mild Decline
As the term suggests, very mild decline occurs when the sufferer begins to notice memory loss. At this early stage, memory impairments are so slight that they may be misinterpreted as normal age-related memory loss. Physicians are unlikely to detect the disease, and patients perform well on memory tests.
Stage 3: Mild Decline
As the patient undergoes medical reviews, doctors are more likely to detect this early stage of Alzheimer’s disease. Patients stumble with memory tests during the mild decline stage. Friends and family members of the individual are likely to notice memory mishaps.
Stage 4: Moderate Decline
In this third stage of Alzheimer’s disease, individuals will misplace personal items, including valuables. Failing to recall familiar names and places becomes an issue. Those affected experience difficulty with conversing and finding the appropriate words. Organizational skills and planning abilities also begin to deteriorate.
Still an early stage of Alzheimer’s disease, moderate decline can endure for years and is often the longest of the stages. At this point, the patient will require an increased level of home care. Common symptoms of stage four include forgetting to pay bills and having difficulty with standard arithmetic.
While the individual can recall certain recent events, he experiences issues with short-term memory, like what he ate for lunch that day. Concentration difficulties and challenges solving problems arise. People with stage four Alzheimer’s disease should not travel to unfamiliar locales alone, as their memory is impaired at this point.
Stage four Alzheimer’s is easily recognized by medical professionals via healthcare examinations and patient interviews. The sufferers, however, are likely to be in full denial of their deteriorating condition. Withdrawal from community activities occurs as socialization increasingly becomes more difficult.
Stage 5: Moderately Severe Cognitive Decline
Mid-stage dementia is recognized at this point. The symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease become more pronounced in the fifth stage. The patient will begin to rely on caregivers to help with the activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, preparing meals, and toileting.
Memory impairments are severe in the fifth stage. Forgetting critical details, like the individual’s home address and phone number, occur. Disorientation with both time and place make it imperative that patients with stage five Alzheimer’s disease not be left to travel unattended.
Stage 6: Severe Cognitive Decline
Performing daily tasks in the sixth stage is nearly impossible without the assistance of a home health care service or family caregiver. The patient experiences bowel and bladder incontinence. Major changes in personality are likely, with delusions, anxiety and agitation dominating the person’s emotional states.
Stage 7: Very Severe Cognitive Decline
The last stage of Alzheimer’s disease occurs as patients lose the ability to hold conversations. Time and place are a blur, as they are unable to identify their immediate environment. While sufferers can utter a few words, their overall ability to engage in communication is significantly challenged.
The capability to control normal physical movements necessary for everyday activities, such as walking, sitting, and even swallowing, is severely diminished. Pneumonia and similar serious infections are more prevalent in people with late-stage Alzheimer’s disease due to their increased susceptibility.
Memory and cognitive functions sharply decline in the final stage of dementia. Death is imminent in those who suffer through to the final stage. Around the clock care is vital to support these vulnerable individuals.
The Need for In-Home Care
Alzheimer’s disease is irreversible. A cure is not yet available, but people who are diagnosed early can make life adjustments that will help them live with dignity for as long as possible. Hiring an in-home caregiver from Assisting Hands Home Care who specializes in Alzheimer’s care is beneficial to the care recipient suffering from any stage of Alzheimer’s disease.
Developing the caregiver-care recipient relationship can be comforting to an Alzheimer’s patient. Even though they may not recognize those around them, caregivers trained in Alzheimer’s care consistently provide compassionate, skilled support.
Assisting Hands Home Care dementia and Alzheimer’s caregivers take the time to get to know their care recipient. Common caregiving duties designed to aid those with Alzheimer’s disease include encouraging exercise by accompanying individuals on walks, playing board games to increase mental stimulation and personally interacting with care recipients to deter isolation.
Families and their elderly loved ones in the surrounding Fort Myers, Florida, communities rely on Assisting Hands Home Care to provide exceptional and dependable Alzheimer’s and dementia care.
Get a Free Consultation
To schedule a free, in-home consultation regarding our Alzheimer’s and dementia care services, contact Assisting Hands Home Care at (239) 221-6326.