It occasionally happens to everyone. You can’t find your glasses. The grocery list is on the refrigerator, and you’re at the store. You forget the new neighbor’s first name. With over one hundred billion cells, fifteen thousand connections, and forty-five chemical messengers, it isn’t surprising that the brain periodically misfires. Often, these memory lapses are merely inconvenient. However, they can signal more serious medical conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease symptoms
Stage 1 – No impairment. Memory and cognitive abilities appear normal. Stage 2 – Minimal Impairment/Normal Forgetfulness. Memory lapses and changes in thinking are rarely detected by friends, family, or medical personnel. Half of those over 65 begin noticing problems in concentration and word recall. Stage 3 – Early Confusional/Mild Cognitive Impairment. Subtle difficulties impact functions. Try to hide problems. Problems with word retrieval, planning, organization, misplacing objects, and forgetting recent learning affect home and work environments. New learning, complex planning and organization may be impacted. Depression and other mood disturbances can occur. Duration: 2-7 years. Stage 4 – Late Confusional/Mild Alzheimer’s. Problems handling finances result from mathematical challenges. Recent events and conversations are increasingly forgotten. Still know selves and family, but have problems carrying out sequential tasks, including cooking, driving, and home management tasks. Ordering food at restaurants, independent shopping, and other sequential tasks are affected. Often withdraw from social situations, become defensive, and deny problems. Need increasing assistance with the “business” of independent living. Accurate diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease possible. Lasts roughly 2 years.
Slowing the progression: Treatment in most cases will involve methods of slowing cognitive decline and treating specific symptoms and/or co-occurring conditions with drug therapies.
Managing the behavioral symptoms of Alzheimer’s: There are many different strategies for doing this. Non-drug approaches, which should be tried first, are used by families and caregivers in consultation with social workers, nurses or support-group facilitators. Specific strategies that might be recommended for managing these symptoms include:
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Teaching caregivers how to communicate and interact with the person in ways that improve functioning and reduce behavioral problems; Involving the person with Alzheimer’s in structured therapeutic activities; Modifying the home environment to make it safer and easier for the person to function; Maintaining overall health through regular medical care, proper diet and exercise, and using complementary health approaches as appropriate to address specific health needs.
Support and education for the family and caregiver: Caring for a person who has Alzheimer’s poses tremendous challenges, emotionally, physically and financially. Caregivers are subject to high levels of chronic stress, and caregiver burnout is a major factor in the inability to continue caring for a person with Alzheimer’s at home.
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