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The Stages of Dementia of the Alzheimer's Type: What to Expect

The Stages of Dementia of the Alzheimer's Type: What to Expect

Understanding Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia

Before diving into the stages of Alzheimer's type dementia, it's important to understand what these terms mean. Alzheimer's disease is a progressive brain disorder that affects memory, thinking skills, and the ability to carry out simple tasks. It's the most common cause of dementia, a general term for the loss of memory and other cognitive abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life.

Dementia is not a single disease; it's an overall term that describes a group of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills severe enough to reduce a person's ability to perform everyday activities. Alzheimer's disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of cases. It's important to remember that while Alzheimer's is a form of dementia, not all dementia is Alzheimer's. There are many different types and causes of dementia, including vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies, and frontotemporal dementia.

Early Stage: Mild Alzheimer's Disease

In the early stage of Alzheimer's, a person may function independently. He or she may still drive, work and be part of social activities. Despite this, the person may feel as if he or she is having memory lapses, such as forgetting familiar words or the location of everyday objects. Friends, family or co-workers begin to notice difficulties. During a detailed medical interview, doctors may be able to detect problems in memory or concentration.

Typical difficulties might include coming up with the right word or name, trouble remembering names when introduced to new people, having greater difficulty performing tasks in social or work settings, forgetting material that one has just read, or losing or misplacing a valuable object. In this stage, a person with Alzheimer's disease might start to remove themselves from hobbies, social activities, work projects, or sports that they previously loved, because they find the changes they are experiencing to be frustrating or embarrassing.

Middle Stage: Moderate Alzheimer's Disease

The middle stage of Alzheimer's is typically the longest and can last for many years. As the disease progresses, the person with Alzheimer's will require a greater level of care. You may notice the person with Alzheimer's confusing words, getting frustrated or angry, or acting in unexpected ways, such as refusing to bathe. Damage to nerve cells in the brain can make it difficult to express thoughts and perform routine tasks.

At this point, symptoms will be noticeable to others and may include forgetting events or personal history, feeling moody or withdrawn, being unable to recall their own address or telephone number, or the high school or college from which they graduated. Confusion about where they are or what day it is also common, and they might need help choosing proper clothing for the season or the occasion. They might also have trouble controlling their bladder, or bowel movements. Changes in sleep patterns, such as sleeping during the day and becoming restless at night, can also occur.

Late Stage: Severe Alzheimer's Disease

In the final stage of this disease, dementia symptoms are severe. Individuals lose the ability to respond to their environment, to carry on a conversation and, eventually, to control movement. They may still say words or phrases, but communicating pain becomes difficult. As memory and cognitive skills continue to worsen, significant personality changes may take place and individuals need extensive help with daily activities.

At this stage, individuals may need help with much of their daily personal care, including eating or using the toilet. They may also lose the ability to smile, to sit without support and to hold their head up. Reflexes become abnormal and muscles grow rigid. Swallowing impaired. Because individuals at this stage usually cannot communicate about their pain, it's important to be aware of signs that they may be experiencing discomfort and to get medical help when needed.

Caring for a Loved One with Alzheimer's Disease

Watching a loved one progress through these stages can be a heartbreaking experience. It's important to remember that you're not alone. There are resources available to help both you and your loved one. Support groups can provide a place to connect with others facing similar challenges. Professional caregivers can also provide respite care to give you a break from the daily routine of caregiving.

Remember, it's important to take care of yourself, too. Make sure you're eating healthy, getting physical activity and plenty of rest, and taking time each day to relax and do things you enjoy. You're doing a tough job, and you should take steps to prevent caregiver burnout. It's not selfish to take care of yourself - it's necessary for you to be able to care for your loved one.

Edison Blakemore
Edison Blakemore

As a pharmaceutical expert, my passion lies in researching and writing about medication and diseases. I've dedicated my career to understanding the intricacies of drug development and treatment options for various illnesses. My goal is to educate others about the fascinating world of pharmaceuticals and the impact they have on our lives. I enjoy delving deep into the latest advancements and sharing my knowledge with those who seek to learn more about this ever-evolving field. With a strong background in both science and writing, I am driven to make complex topics accessible to a broad audience.

View all posts by: Edison Blakemore

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