The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that around 6.2 million Americans of all ages and every background live with this progressive neurodegenerative disorder. While the scientific community has not yet pinpointed the exact cause of the condition, several components and factors identified may increase a person’s risk of developing the disease at some point in life. Most individuals diagnosed with this disorder are around 65 years of age early-onset Alzheimer’s can claim some as early as their 30’s. Because it is a progressive disorder, Alzheimer’s is a fatal disease, and while some may live as many as 20 years after onset, the average life expectancy after diagnosis is 8-10 years. The stages of Alzheimer’s Disease begin with the preclinical phase, and symptoms progress to the severe stage, where the person no longer has control over most of their body and mind.
For the loved ones caring for someone with Alzheimer’s, the disease can seemingly take the person you knew and loved and may feel like you’re being left with a shell of a person. As symptoms progress, more care, attention, and support are needed to help your loved one with day-to-day tasks.
The Stages of Alzheimer’s – Spotting the Signs
The progression of Alzheimer’s begins long before noticeable symptoms emerge. Scientists believe that an overgrowth of abnormal brain structures known as Plaques and Tangles is the cause of impairment and memory loss in Alzheimer’s patients. In normal brains, these growths and deposits are minimal, but these growths are abundant in the brains of dementia patients.
Preclinical Stage Alzheimer’s
Before we can even spot the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, these changes in the brain have already begun. This stage can take several years before progressing to the mild or early stages of the disorder. One thing is certain: spotting the early signs of Alzheimer’s and getting treatment can help slow the progression of the disease, adding years to a patient’s life.
Learning Not to Argue – Memory and Alzheimer’s Disease from Johns Hopkins Medicine
Early Stage Alzheimer’s
It may begin as being forgetful on occasion or misplacing items more frequently, but the early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease can sometimes be hard to spot. After all, some forgetfulness and mental clarity decline is part of aging. Having issues with staying organized, trouble planning and focusing, and having a hard time remembering things like names and places are all symptoms of the beginning stages of the disorder.
Middle Stage Alzheimer’s
As the disorder progresses, remembering events, faces, and information from their day-to-day life becomes more difficult for those suffering. You may notice that your loved one might forget their name or the name of children or loved ones. This is often accompanied by problems learning new things and even trouble with reading, writing, and simple math. Losing track of time or getting lost easily can also go hand in hand with confusion and trouble focusing.
Late Stage Alzheimer’s
In the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s Disease, physical and cognitive tasks are more difficult and sometimes impossible. The loss of bowel and bladder control, the inability to eat without assistance, and an increasingly difficult time remembering past events and loved ones mean that they will need constant help and support. In many cases, caregivers or assisted living situations are imperative to help care for our loved ones diagnosed with this devastating disorder.
Alzheimer’s Treatments – Is There Hope on the Horizon?
Some in the medical profession believe that diet, physical activity, genetics, and even how hard we exercise our brains are all contributing factors to how at risk we are for developing this disease. There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s, but exciting advancements in therapies and medications are bringing much-needed hope to many families. On June 7, 2021, the first FDA-approved pharmaceutical treatment for Alzheimer’s obtained full approval, and will be available to those living with the disorder starting immediately.
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