There are few things more debilitating as the slow regression of one’s mental abilities. Suffering from Alzheimer’s disease is not only physically and mentally draining but it can take its toll on one’s emotions as well. Once diagnosed with the disease it is easy to let the mind drift in all sorts of directions. If you have no foundation knowledge to base your thoughts on it is easy to drift off into some of the more frightening scenes from the countless reports from different people on the subject.
However, one way to put your mind at ease is to know what to expect when you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The more knowledge you have about it the easier it is to prepare for the transition that the whole family will have to go through. There are actually three Alzheimers stages you should be aware of and what to expect through each stage as it progresses.
What is Alzheimers?
Alzheimers is a slow progressing disease that affects the brain. Typically, a patient with Alzheimers will live an average of about eight years after diagnosis. While some have been known to live much longer those cases are rare.
Alzheimers is already at work on the brain long before any symptoms of the disease become apparent. These changes usually occur well before any official diagnosis can be made. While this is definitely the preface to Alzheimers it is not considered part of the three stages of the disease. Called the preclinical Alzheimers, it is the period of time that sets the stage for when the disease actually takes effect.
The Early Stage in Alzheimers Stages:
The symptoms of Alzheimers are pretty mild in the early stage of the disease. Most people are still able to function and live relatively normal lives during this phase. They can still drive, hold a job, and even participate regularly in social activities with little disruption to their regular routine. During this period, which can last for many years, the patient may be showing signs of slight memory lapses, struggling to find the right words in conversations, or forgetting how to get to places he or she has often frequented.
At this stage, it is usually only close friends and family members that may detect these early signs of memory loss. They may observe something as subtle as recalling to mind a name of a person they just met or constantly misplacing things they use every day, their keys, wallet, or work materials. As the disease progresses, they may find they are having difficulty organizing their lives and planning normal activities without help from someone else.
The Moderate Stage in Alzheimers Stages:
The second of the Alzheimers stages is the moderate stage. At this middle stage of the disease, the condition will slowly begin to worsen. A person can stay in this stage for an extended period of time but will gradually require more and more care to function normally. At this point you might notice that they begin to forget basic hygiene. They may forget to take a bath, comb their hair, brush their teeth or take care of themselves without prompting or prodding.
Mentally, their minds may begin to confuse words or they may struggle to express their thoughts in a logical and coherent way. As the disease advances, they may struggle to recall even their own address or phone number, forget how to do even the most mundane and routine of activities, forget how to dress themselves or even how to choose appropriate clothing to wear.
It is at this stage that emotional symptoms usually begin to appear. They may get frustrated or become angry easily as they struggle to live with their growing inability to do even the most basic of things. Some become suspicious or begin to have delusions of some kind while others even develop obsessive-compulsive disorders as they try to fight back the slow deterioration of their brain.
The Severe Stage in Alzheimers Stages:
During the final stage of the disease the conditions will become very advanced. They will slowly lose the ability to respond to any stimulus from their environment, be unable to control their movements, and will eventually lose the ability to control their own normal bodily functions.
At this point, they will require around the clock care for even the most basic of things. Personality flaws will become more apparent, and they will have increasing difficulty in communicating their needs and wants. Their overall physical health will also deteriorate to the point that they will be more susceptible to infections and other diseases as their immune system loses its ability to ward of bacteria and viruses.
Sadly, there is no cure for this debilitating disease and it can cause no end to frustration for both the family and the patient. However, as the disease progresses, there are medications that can help ease much of the suffering that will inevitably occur. With medications to help them to maintain their mental capabilities for longer or those used to help manage their emotional state there is hope.
Dealing with the onslaught of Alzheimers can be very difficult for everyone involved. The key to surviving this disease is to preserve the quality of life for the individual for as long as possible. With proper medication, most people are able to live fully functioning lives for many years before the disease takes its toll. The key is to recognize the symptoms and get medical treatment as early as possible.
Many medications are capable of doing so much more than extending one’s physical life regardless of which of the Alzheimer stages one might be in. They have proven to be very effective in keeping patients functioning normally for longer periods of time in spite of the odds against them.
Researchers are constantly looking for new and more progressive treatments that can eventually stop the progression of this disease and perhaps one day even reverse its effects. To that end clinical trials are constantly going on to test out new theories or treatments. If you’re interested in participating in one of these trials, the best place to start is to ask your doctor for a recommendation. It’s not enough for people to hope for a cure, your participation in these studies actually mean you’re helping to find a real solution to the problem.