We often get asked what are the symptoms of alzheimer’s? Alzheimer’s disease can be one of the most difficult and heart-breaking conditions that people have to face. It can affect people in many different ways and the impact that it has on the person who has it along with their wider family, friends and carers can be far reaching and devastating. Most significantly is the fact that the timing and severity of the disease differs from one person to another and how they progress through the stages of Alzheimer’s.
On average, somebody with Alzheimer’s disease can live from four to eight years but some cases have seen people living with the symptoms for 20 years depending on other factors in their lives and environment. In essence there are four recognised stages of Alzheimer’s disease which can be summarised as follows:
Firstly there is what is known as preclinical Alzheimer’s disease. This is a timeframe that can last for years and is related to changes in the brain that show no effects or signs of the disease. People who may be afflicted with the disease will have no idea and show no symptoms but it means that the changes are developing in the brain. This is like the build up to the early signs and pre-stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
Once there are some early signs or changes in behaviour, then there is progression into what is known as Mild Alzheimer’s disease or the early stage. The person will still be able to function independently and interact within social circles as normal, however there will be subtle changes that will creep in. Things such as memory lapses, little forgetful moments like being unable to remember everyday words and names or misplaced items will occur. This is often noticed more by friends and family and in many cases is brushed off by the individual as nothing to be concerned about or just the stresses of everyday life. However if there is any notion that it may be something more, then it is worth getting checked out. Whilst Alzheimer’s disease cannot yet be stopped or reversed, an early diagnosis can allow a person to make plans, prepare and live well for as long as possible before things start to deteriorate. A medical assessment may point to the likes of
- Forgetting the name of familiar or everyday objects
- Losing or misplacing objects
- Forgetting something that has just been told or read
- Struggling with everyday tasks
- Struggling with names of people, particularly new people who have just been introduced
The assessment can at least help to determine if there is an issue and start to help the individual, their friends and family to what may be coming in the ensuing months and years.
As the disease progresses, it will enter the Moderate stage. This is the most pronounced of the stages of Alzheimer’s disease and can last the longest too. It can last for years and will see the individual’s condition change significantly along with their care needs and behaviour. This is where the effects and symptoms really do differ, the individual may struggle with some basic tasks but have detailed recollections and memories about other parts of their life. Behavioural changes may also include getting frustrated and angry partly because the changes in the brain can make it difficult to express themselves as they may have done before. Some of the significant elements that people may struggle with include:
- Forgetting the day or date
- Not recognising close family members and forgetting their names
- Forgetting where they are
- Changes in living patterns such as sleeping times, eating times etc.
- Inability to perform basic tasks such as going to the toilet, dressing themselves appropriately etc.
This is often the most upsetting period of the disease timeline for family and friends because the changes are much more noticeable and there is often a feeling of loss in that the loved one that they knew are changing or indeed disappearing. It is also the most challenging time because it is often the point that people realise that significant changes, caring options and solutions need to be addressed. This can be physical elements but also financial, psychological and practical elements too that make the situation very alarming and very real. This can continue for a period of years until the individual develops into the Severe Alzheimer’s stage.
Effectively, this is the final stage of the disease and again takes on some very significant changes from a behavioural, physical and caring point of view. A person with Sever Alzheimer’s will struggle to interact with their environment whether it’s their location or the people around them. A conversation will be difficult as will controlling basic movement too. Personality changes will be inevitable until they may be unrecognisable from the person they once were, this is where many loved ones find it most difficult as they feel that the person they once knew has ‘gone’. Round the clock care and assistance will most likely be required and a general lack of awareness of surroundings will be taking hold. Further deterioration in basic physical functions will also be occurring meaning that a reliance on care and assistance becomes even greater.
While this gives a guide to the development in Alzheimer’s disease, it’s unfortunate to say that there is no set pattern or progression for this awful disease. Each person who is afflicted by it is affected in different ways, there is no rule to timings or severity of the disease. This is what it makes it so hard to understand for many people as no two cases are the same. There are many resources available to assist with Alzheimer’s both from the individual’s perspective and also from the point of view of family and friends. Support for those caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease is vital because they can often be the forgotten in many cases.
For further information on Alzheimer’s care in Solihull and surrounding areas, and to discuss what options are best for your situation, get in touch with us here at Bright Dawn Home Care or call us on 01564 784 598. We’re happy to give advice and discuss Alzheimer’s support options at home and you should always consult a doctor or a qualified medical advisor if you have urgent concerns. you can also get a great deal of information and advice from organisations like Alzheimer’s Research UK and The Alzheimer’s Society.