Forgetfulness and asking questions twice or more will often earn you the “do-you-have-Alzheimer’s/Dementia” joke. But in reality, this is no laughing matter. A recent global study showed that there is an estimated 50 million people living in an Alzheimer’s Disease nightmare, and said figure is yet to shoot up to a possible 152 million by 2050.1
Alzheimer’s Disease is a more advanced stage of dementia. It is a degenerative brain disease that affects memory, behavior, and thought processes with no known cure. Diagnosis oftentimes comes at age 65, but there is a possibility of early onset even as early as one’s 30s.2
Stages and Symptoms
- Pre-clinical stage. The person may begin to show some changes in the brain’s structure, but there is almost no change and decline in cognitive function. 3
- Mild (or early) stage. The person feels something wrong with him as changes in memory begin to surface. The people he is with also begin to notice the change. Diagnosis is often done at this stage. Symptoms are the following:4
-There is a noticeable loss of memory. Misplacing things are sometimes normal for people. Forgetting where they are is another thing. He notices that he often asks questions repeatedly and does not remember asking it. If it gets to the point where you don’t seem to remember where you live and you get lost, then it becomes a problem.
-Mood swings easily switch from one emotion to the next which may lead to confusion and fear. He could be quickly depressed or uninterested. Aggressiveness and passiveness are also possible signs of early onset of the disease.
-Routine tasks – the ones that can be done with eyes closed – become difficult to complete.
-Early-onset sufferers become gullible. Their confusion will most often lead to bad decisions and poor judgment.
- Moderate stage. This is said to be the longest stage and the symptoms worsen. Typical symptoms include the following: 4
- Severe (or late) stage. The condition worsens and there is a need to give them full-time assistance and care. The observed symptoms are as follows: 5
-He does not know his name but knows other life details.
-Learning new things is difficult for him.
-He develops problems related to numbers and words.
-Though he remembers faces, he may periodically start to forget names of family and friends.
-Daily activities become a burden for him and may need help getting dressed, brushing teeth, and even using the toilet.
-He becomes moody. He may also experience delusions and feel paranoia. Normal sleep patterns may become disrupted due to anxiety and restlessness.
-He may develop a complete personality change. Some of those afflicted with this disease can become suspicious and violent of the people around them.
-Memory loss is touch and go, with the real possibility of the patient not remembering who anyone is.
-He may have dysphagia (difficulty in swallowing), and urinary and bowel incontinence (passing urine or stool unintentionally). Due to this, he will drastically lose weight.
-Mobility will be an issue as he will need to be assisted whenever he moves.
-His ability to speak will gradually disappear.
It is difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of Alzheimer’s Disease. But the general scientific belief is that it is possibly caused by a combination of several factors – age, family history, lifestyle, and heart health – which leads to loss of neurons and the eventual brain cells degeneration. 6
Unfortunately, there is no cure. There are several combined treatment options to make a patient’s life comfortable – family support, medicines, and therapy. 7
- The family’s support is crucial to the patient’s well-being as he will need care and understanding from the people who love him the most.
- The main medicines prescribed to temporarily improve some of the symptoms are Acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitors and Memantine. Since behavioral changes are also a concern, a psychiatrist may also prescribe antipsychotic and/or antidepressant medicines.
- Cognitive stimulation therapy (CST) helps by using the brain’s working parts to compensate for the inactive ones. It encourages the patient to join group activities and exercises. This will help improve problem-solving and memory-related skills.
- Reminiscing the past is a good way to remind the patient of who he is. Compiling memories via photos, music, or notes may help the patient improve his memory.
Alzheimer’s Disease is taxing not only for the patient, but also for the caregiver. Knowing what you are dealing with helps you make better choices to alleviate the quality of life of both the family and the Alzheimer’s Disease patient.
 Alzheimer’s Disease International, “World Alzheimer Report 2019: Attitudes to Dementia”, Alzheimer’s Disease International, September 2019, Retrieved from https://www.alz.co.uk/research/WorldAlzheimerReport2019.pdf
2 Jaimee Herndon and Kristeen Cherney, “Everything You Need to Know About Alzheimer’s Disease”, Healthline, Medically reviewed by Timothy J. Legg PhD CRNP on 4 December 2018, Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/alzheimers-disease
3 Esther Hereema MSW, “Signs of Preclinical Alzheimer’s Disease”, Verywellhealth, 6 September 2019, Retrieved from https://www.verywellhealth.com/what-are-the-signs-of-preclinical-alzheimers-disease-98593
4 “Alzheimer’s Caregiving: Managing Personality and Behavior Changes in Alzheimer’s”, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services – National Institute on Aging, [n.d.], Retrieved from https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/managing-personality-and-behavior-changes-alzheimers
5 “Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease”, Johns Hopkins Medicine, [n.d.], Retrieved from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/alzheimers-disease/stages-of-alzheimer-disease
6 “Alzheimer’s Disease: Symptoms”, NHS UK, Last reviewed on 10 May 2018, Retrieved from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/alzheimers-disease/symptoms/
7 “Alzheimer’s Disease: Symptoms & Causes”, Mayo Clinic, [n.d.], Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alzheimers-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20350447
8 “Alzheimer’s Disease: Treatment”, NHS UK, Last reviewed on 10 May 2018, Retrieved from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/alzheimers-disease/treatment/