Ten Important Things To Know About Alzheimer’s Progression

By: Patricia Oelze

Updated August 28, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Melinda Santa

Approximately 33% of American adults will have Alzheimer's disease by the time they reach 85 years old. With one-third of our population experiencing such a tough disease and another third of the population taking care of them, that is a lot of people searching for answers to many pertinent questions about Alzheimer's disease. If you have a loved one who is suffering from Alzheimer's, you probably have questions and concerns that you would like answered, so here are ten important things you should know about Alzheimer's progression.

  1. Symptoms Of Alzheimer's Disease

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Because Alzheimer's affects senior citizens, it can often be overlooked as a part of the normal aging process. It is normal for your memory to decline and for you to have trouble with some daily activities, but some issues cannot be overlooked. Some of the symptoms of Alzheimer's include:

  • Memory loss that disrupts your daily life
  • Trouble planning things
  • Difficulty solving problems or making decisions
  • Changes in mood and behavior
  • Getting lost in familiar places
  • Leaving things in strange places like putting your keys in the refrigerator
  • Losing items daily
  • Taking longer to do daily activities
  • Confusing words for certain items
  • Forgetting certain words
  • Asking the same questions over and over
  1. Alzheimer's Disease Is More Than Just Forgetfulness

When you think of Alzheimer's Disease, you typically think of memory problems or forgetfulness. In fact, that is only one part of the disease's effects on the body and brain. Many seniors with Alzheimer's disease have trouble getting dressed; they lose their dexterity and balance, and can even lose the ability to swallow. However, that is usually when the disease is more progressed.

In the early stages of the disease, you may find yourself making frequent errors in math computation, such as with balancing a checkbook. You may have a hard time driving or getting from one place to another. Setting the microwave to cook your food may be more confusing than usual, and trying to record a program on television may become impossible. Another issue includes judging distances or figuring out what color something is. You may have poor judgment or make impulsive decisions. These are all early signs of Alzheimer's disease.

  1. Stages Of Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's disease typically comes on slowly, and we often do not see the signs of the disease until it has progressed. It is best to catch it early so the patient can be treated since many treatments can slow down the progress or prevent it from getting too bad. There are actually five stages of the disease, but each person is different, and some may progress differently than others. Some people may stay in the first stage for several years while others may go from the first to the second stage within months. However, the typical stages of Alzheimer's disease include:

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  • Preclinical Alzheimer's Disease
    • The first stage of the disease mostly affects short-term memory, and this is why many people do not even notice it. Because memory loss is a normal part of getting older, we tend to ignore these subtle signs of Alzheimer's:
    • Having slight trouble with activities like work or getting dressed
    • Difficulty learning new things
    • Slight lack of motivation
    • Misplacing things
    • Trouble remembering names
    • Difficulty with abstract thinking
    • Slight trouble paying attention
    • Loss of interest in some things
  • Alzheimer's Disease With Mild Cognitive Impairment
    • In this second stage of Alzheimer's disease, the patient's symptoms gradually get worse until they start to affect them at work and home. Others will start to notice it as well, and their loved ones may start to become concerned while the patient may not notice it as much. The symptoms include:
    • Needing help with planning or finances
    • Bouts of anxiety, aggression, or depression
    • Not being able to find the right words in conversations
    • Impulsive behavior
    • Inability to make good judgment calls
    • Trouble finding places
    • Inability to concentrate
    • Forgetting appointments
    • Not remembering recent conversations or events
    • Trouble recalling details of major events
    • Further lack of motivation and lack of interest
  • Alzheimer's Disease With Mild Dementia
    • The third stage is much more noticeable to others as the patient's memory becomes worse, and they lose more of your cognitive ability. All the symptoms are getting worse, and while others around them seem to notice, they do not see the signs as much. These symptoms include:
    • Often getting lost in unfamiliar places
    • Increased trouble finding words when talking
    • Asking the same questions over and over
    • Further signs of depression and anxiety
    • Delusional behavior
    • Inability to remember major world events
    • Unable to manage finances and medication
    • Trouble making meals
    • Frequently forgetful and confused
    • Increased lack of motivation and interest in things
  • Alzheimer's Disease With Moderate Dementia
    • At this stage, the patient's symptoms are obvious to everyone around them while they notice them less. Their safety becomes an issue, and they are unable to care for themselves. Their coordination becomes worse, and they tend to wander off and get lost. Symptoms include:
    • More frequent bouts of delusion
    • Getting disoriented
    • Not knowing what day it is or what time it is
    • Wandering off
    • Getting lost even when at home
    • Makes up words and stories when they cannot remember
    • Repeating stories and memories
    • Unable to remember phone number and address
    • Repetitive behavior such as wringing their hands
    • Inability to fall asleep or stay asleep
    • Restlessness, agitation, and becoming aggressive
    • Cannot remember family and friends
    • Mistaking strangers for friends and family
    • Needs help getting dressed
    • Total lack of interest and motivation sometimes
  • Alzheimer's Disease With Severe Dementia
    • Once the patient reaches this stage, they will need home care all the time and may be unable to get out of bed. They will not be able to dress or feed themselves, and some will not even be able to swallow or move around. At this stage, the most important thing is to keep the patient comfortable. The symptoms of this final stage include:
    • Deteriorating muscle mass
    • Weight loss
    • Difficulty swallowing
    • Incontinence
    • Cannot hold head up or smile
    • Needs assistance with daily activities like eating and dressing
    • Only able to say one or two words
    • Chronic and extreme exhaustion
    • Unable to sit up or walk
    • Stiffening of the muscles and lack of reflexes
    • Extreme apathy
  1. What Causes Alzheimer's Disease?

The actual cause of Alzheimer's disease is not completely understood yet, but doctors have found some of the risk factors and know what occurs in the brain after death from Alzheimer's. It is the death of brain cells in the brain that causes the symptoms of the disease, and this is caused by tangles of nerve cells and plaques made by a certain kind of protein called beta-amyloid. Although the causes of the symptoms are known, it is still not known why these changes occur.

  1. Treatments For Alzheimer's Disease

Whether you are the patient or a loved one, finding the best treatment for Alzheimer's disease is essential to preventing the progress of certain symptoms such as memory loss and cognitive decline. Some of these include:

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  • Cholinesterase inhibitors such as galantamine, rivastigmine, and donepezil
  • Antidepressants like trazodone, sertraline, paroxetine, and fluoxetine
  • NMDA antagonists such as memantine
  • Sleep aids like zolpidem, eszopiclone, and zaleplon
  • Anti-anxiety drugs such as clonazepam and lorazepam
  • Anti-psychotics like olanzapine, quetiapine, and risperidone
  1. Alternative Treatments

There are many alternative treatments that have been tried for the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. Some of these have been known to be extremely helpful, while others are relatively new and need more testing. Medical experts approve none of these, and there is no significant evidence that they are effective. The FDA has not approved any of these treatments. Some of these include:

  • Coconut Oil
  • Marijuana
  • Omega-3, Coenzyme-Q10, Coral Calcium, Huperzine A, Ginkgo biloba, Tramiprosate, Phosphatidylserine,
  • Acupuncture
  • Aromatherapy
  • Light Therapy
  • Music Therapy
  1. Is There A Cure?

While there is no known cure for Alzheimer's disease, there are some treatments that experts believe may eventually be part of a cure in the future. Some of these are new drugs, while others are alternative cures that are described below. Some of these new drugs include pimavanserin, which reduces psychosis; AADvac1, which is a vaccine that attacks abnormal proteins; and JNJ-54861911, which is a drug that targets the enzyme that helps make beta amyloid.

  1. You Can Prevent Alzheimer's Disease

Although there is no cure for Alzheimer's disease, the experts say that there are many things that you can do to prevent the disease. Since we are living longer than we used to and we have better technology, that may be why there have been more incidences of the disease, but there are also more ways to prevent the progression. Here are some of the ways to prevent Alzheimer's disease:

  • Treat anxiety or stress right away
  • See your doctor regularly
  • Be social
  • Keep your mind active
  • Prevent head trauma
  • Do not smoke
  • Drink alcohol in moderation
  • Keep a regular sleep schedule
  • Eat healthily
  • Exercise and keep active
  1. Games And Activities That Can Help

Although there is no cure, there are games and activities that can help with the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. For example, keeping your brain sharp by doing crossword puzzles can slow down dementia caused by the disease. Then there are the physical activities that can also help ease the symptoms. Some of the games and activities for people with Alzheimer's disease include:

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  • Gardening
  • Writing
  • Reading
  • Crafts
  • Painting
  • Social activities
  • Housework
  • Laughter
  • Exercise such as walking or stretching
  • Yoga
  • Puzzles
  • Dominos
  • Computer games
  • Board games
  • Card games
  • Bingo
  1. Family Caregivers Need Help Too

While it is important to make sure your loved one with Alzheimer's disease gets the help and treatment they need, it is just as important that you get help too. Those who care for loved ones with chronic and debilitating disorders like Alzheimer's disease need some support to keep them from getting overwhelmed. After all, how can you care for your loved one if you are anxious or depressed? The therapists and counselors at BetterHelp are available 24/7, and you do not even need an appointment. In fact, you do not even have to leave your house. Just go to their website and answer a few questions, and you will have a professional to talk to by the end of the day.





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