• Isabella Romero

Alzheimer's: Stages and Treatment

What is Alzheimer's?

Alzheimer's is a neurodegenerative disease that progressively destroys memory and other crucial brain functions. It is a chronic disease that can be treated, but unfortunately, there is no cure, at least not yet.

Although Alzheimer's is a neurodegenerative disease, it is also a type of neurocognitive disorder. It is important to note the distinction between disease and disorder. A pathophysiological response to internal or external causes is referred to as a disease. A disorder, on the other hand, is a disruption in the normal structure and function of the body. Hence, Alzheimer's falls under both the definition of disease and disorder.


How does Alzheimer's progress?

Alzheimer's has 3 stages:

1. Early Stage (also known as the mild stage)

2. Middle stage (also known as the moderate stage)

3. Late Stage (also known as the severe stage)

People are different; therefore, a person suffering from Alzheimer's can have various symptoms and be in a different stage than another.


Early Stage Alzheimer's disease: There is a slight forgetfulness that resembles the general forgetfulness that is typical as one age. At this stage, people can still:

1. Drive

2. Go to work

3. Participate in regular activities

Common symptoms include:

1. Forgetting material that has been recently read/just read

2. Trouble organizing/planning

3. Forgetting where valuables have been placed

4. Trouble managing money

5. Forgetting names (especially those recently met)

6. Trouble doing challenging tasks at work


Middle Stage Alzheimer's disease: Typically, in the longest stage, the need for additional care might arise & get more significant.

Common symptoms include:

1. Personality and/or behavior changes

- Delusions

- Compulsions

- Repetitive behavior

2. Needing assistance with getting dressed & choosing appropriate clothing

3. Difficulty with toileting/controlling bladder & bowel functions

4. Mood changes or social withdrawal

5. Trouble learning new things

6. Problems with reading & writing as well as using numbers

7. May not know their own name but knows essential things about their life

8. Losing track of time or surroundings

9. Agitation, restlessness, & anxiety, which may worsen at night

10. Sleep disturbances


Late Stage Alzheimer's disease: Symptoms are significant and apparent.

1. Ability to hold a conversation is minimal, and eventually, it might become hard to move, eat, and swallow

2. Round the clock assistance may be necessary and significant

3. Personality and behavior changes might occur

4. Loss of bladder and bowel control

5. Lack of awareness of recent and current activities or surroundings

6. Highly susceptible to infections, like pneumonia

7. Unable to do daily activities without assistance


Treatment and Management: No form of treatment is presently capable of producing sustained & clinically significant improvement in cognitive functioning for patients with Alzheimer's Disease. Realistic Goals:

1. Helping the person to maintain their level functioning for as long as possible despite

cognitive impairment

2. Minimizing the level of distress experienced by the person and person's family

Treatment options:

1. Medication

2. Management of the patients' environment

3. Behavioral strategies

4. Providing support to caregivers (caregiver burnout)

Support for caregivers:

1. Support groups > talk with people going through the identical/similar situation

2. Informal counseling >

3. Ad hoc consultation services >

These approaches attempt to improve the quality of life for the person with Alzheimer's while helping the caregiver survive the spouse's illness & to postpone the need to place in a nursing home.


Difference between Dementia & Alzheimers:

Dementia is a common word for a decrease in intellect that is critical enough to mess with your daily life activities. Alzheimer's, which is a neurodegenerative disease, is the MOST COMMON cause of Dementia. However, Alzheimer's is a specific disease, Dementia is not. Alzheimer's falls under the Dementia Category.


Diagnosis of Alzheimer's:

A definite diagnosis disease can only be determined by autopsy because it requires the observation of 2 specific types of brain lesions: neurofibrillary tangles and amyloid plaques.


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