What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease which causes brain cells to degenerate over a period of time. This leads to eventual deterioration of mental functions and memories. Confusion and memory loss are the main symptoms, in fact, Alzheimer’s disease is the leading cause of Dementia, a disease which causes a decline in thinking, and the ability to do things independently over a period of time.
Alzheimer’s disease occurs through 7 stages.
- Stage 1- Normal Brain Activity.
Any person who doesn’t have any symptoms of cognitive deterioration is considered “Normal”
2. Stage 2 – Normal Aged Forgetfulness.
Over ½ of the population over the age of 65 experiences what is known as “Normal Aged Forgetfulness”. This is when mental abilities are not as sharp as the once may have been. Those experiencing Normal Aged Forgetfulness may feel as if they cannot remember as well as they had in the past. While these symptoms are often benign, he Alzheimer’s Research Foundation states, “there is some recent evidence that persons with these symptoms do decline at higher rates than similarly aged persons and similarly healthy persons who are free of subjective complaints.”
3. Stage 3 – Mild Cognitive Impairment
Those in this stage often have subtle symptoms. A person in this stage may repeat questions, and notice an inability to perform certain tasks which they used to do. This may impact experiences in the workplace, and other areas which require mental stimulation. While each case is different, most people who are experiencing subtle symptoms will start experiencing obvious symptoms of dementia within 7 years. While the transition to stage 4 occurs after approximately 4 years.
4. Stage 4 – Mild Alzheimer’s Disease
The diagnosis of Alzheimer’s can be made easily at this stage. In this stage, the inability to complete complex tasks is evident. While they may forget locations of certain object, names of relatives, weather patterns etc. can still be remembered. Although their mind has deteriorated, those in stage 4 can still live independently in community settings (nursing homes etc.)
5. Stage 5 – Moderate Alzheimer’s Disease
In this stage, patients lose the ability to live independently. They will not be able to do basic things such as decide what clothes to wear to certain events/weather conditions. Major events/people (such as the head of country or distant relatives) aren’t remembered neither are addresses. The average duration of this stage is approximately 1.5 years.
6. Stage 6 – Moderately severe Alzheimer’s Disease
In this stage, a caretaker is needed to help the patient with basic things such as clothing oneself. The Alzheimer’s Foundation states “The mean duration of this sixth stage of AD is approximately 2.3 years. As this stage comes to an end, the patient, who is doubly incontinent and needs assistance with dressing and bathing, begins to manifest overt breakdown in the ability to articulate speech. Stuttering (verbigeration), neologisms, and or an increased paucity of speech, become manifest.”
7. Stage 7 – Severe Alzheimer’s Disease
During this stage the patient has lost the ability to perform basic mental functions. Speech has been cut down to approximately 6 words. Those who survive into the late stages of stage 7 experience joint and limb contracture. The Alzheimer’s institute death a result of Alzheimer’s in the following way. “The most frequent proximate cause of death is pneumonia. Aspiration is one common cause of terminal pneumonia. Another common cause of demise in AD is infected decubital ulcerations. AD patients in the seventh stage appear to be more vulnerable to all of the common causes of mortality in the elderly including stroke, heart disease, and cancer. Some patients in this final stage appear to succumb to no identifiable condition other than AD.”
There is no cure for Alzheimer’s as of right now but you can always donate to research organizations dedicated towards the disease. A few great organizations are
- Alzheimer’s Association
- American Brain Foundation
- Bright Focus
- Cure Alzheimer’s Fund
- Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation