What is Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive brain disorder that affects general cognitive abilities such as memory, thinking, and eventually the ability to do basic tasks. The disease starts out mild and progresses gradually over several years. The symptoms also start out mild, such as lapses in short term memory, and become more severe as long-term memory and general cognitive ability decline.
There currently is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease nor is there a way to prevent it or slow its progression. However, if the disease is noticed in its early stages, those affected can receive the proper care to live the best possible quality of life. If you have loved ones who are affected by Alzheimer’s disease, Assisting Hands Home Care can help. Our caregivers are trained and licensed to provide Alzheimer’s home care and help those affected by the disease live safely and comfortably at home.
An Alzheimer’s diagnosis of an aging parent or loved one can be jarring and you may not know what to expect. The following are the most frequently asked questions concerning Alzheimer’s disease to help you better understand the disease, its symptoms, and care options.
Are Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia the Same Thing?
The terms “Alzheimer’s disease” and “dementia” are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. Dementia is more of an umbrella term that describes conditions that lead to a decline in cognitive abilities including memory, thinking, and reasoning. These conditions eventually affect an individual’s ability to handle daily activities and self-care. Alzheimer’s disease is one type of dementia, but also the most common as it accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases.
What are the Early Symptoms of Alzheimer’s?
The early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease can vary depending on the individual. Lapses in short term memory are a common symptom of the early stages, but memory lapses alone can also be a sign of old age. Persistent memory problems, in addition to impaired thinking, speaking, reasoning, spatial issues, and judgement may be an indication of Alzheimer’s disease. Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a condition in which the affected individual experiences movement issues as well as memory problems and this condition can be an early sign of Alzheimer’s. However, MCI does not always develop into Alzheimer’s.
What are the Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disease and its symptoms and progression are categorized into 4 stages:
- Pre-symptomatic: The symptoms are not apparent yet but physical changes in the brain are beginning to take place.
- Mild (Stage 1): This is the first stage with apparent symptoms as those affected may experience some memory loss, mood swings, confusion, trouble communicating, and loss of energy. As a result, they can become withdrawn and easily agitated.
- Moderate (Stage 2): In stage 2, the memory loss becomes much worse and the individual may need help with basic tasks. Long term memory is now affected as individuals may confuse the present with the past and have difficulty recognizing friends and relatives. They will also need constant care and assistance as they can no longer handle activities of daily living (ADLs) such as dressing and restroom use.
- Severe (Stage 3): This is the most severe stage as those affected have little to no memory left, can hardly speak, and cannot control bodily functions. Those affected may also become physically weakened. Those in this stage typically become bed ridden.
What Causes Alzheimer’s Disease?
The specific causes of Alzheimer’s disease are still unknown. Scientists believe that genetics and age-related changes in the brain are major factors, as well as environment and lifestyle.
Is Alzheimer’s Disease Genetic?
It is not clear if Alzheimer’s disease is hereditary or if genetics play a role in its development, but genetics do appear to play some role. Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, which is a rare form of Alzheimer’s that affects people before the age of 60, is caused by one of three genetic mutations that can be passed down from parent to child. However, even if a child inherits one of these mutations, it is still possible that they will not get Alzheimer’s.
Late-onset Alzheimer’s, which begins to affect people around the age of 65, is not caused by a genetic mutation, but certain genetic factors may be involved. Scientists are also studying diet and environmental factors to understand their role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
How is Alzheimer’s Diagnosed?
The only way to confirm Alzheimer’s disease is through an autopsy, but doctors can diagnose Alzheimer’s while the patient is alive with 90 percent accuracy. Doctors conduct physical exams, neuropsychological tests, and brain scanning to determine the diagnosis.
Those experiencing the early symptoms of Alzheimer’s will undergo physical exams that include blood and urine tests, so doctors can look for other forms of dementia. Certain types of dementia can be caused by a lack of certain hormones and vitamins which would be apparent in a blood or urine test. Neuropsychological tests examine cognitive functions like memory and thinking to find symptoms consistent with Alzheimer’s. Brain scanning can also be used to look for structural changes in the brain and determine whether these changes are consistent with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.
Can Alzheimer’s Disease be Prevented?
There is no clear answer to this question as scientists still have not definitively identified specific causes of Alzheimer’s disease. The best way to prevent Alzheimer’s is to live a healthy lifestyle that includes diet, exercise, and weight management. Researchers are studying the possible effects of a healthy lifestyle, as well as social activity and mental stimulation, in relation to slowing or preventing Alzheimer’s disease.
Can Alzheimer’s Patients be Treated?
While the disease itself cannot be cured or treated, it is possible to treat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. There are medications available that can help alleviate symptoms such as depression, loss of sleep, agitation, and psychosis. You can learn more about these medications by visiting: https://www.brightfocus.org/alzheimers/article/treatments-alzheimers-disease.
It is also possible to help Alzheimer’s patients by providing them with the needed care and assistance with everyday activities. Licensed Alzheimer’s caregivers can also engage patients in mentally stimulating activities that can help slow the progression of memory loss.
Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care from Assisting Hands
At Assisting Hands Home Care, we are ready to help those in Richmond, VA and the surrounding areas living with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Our caregivers are experienced caring for those affected by these conditions and can help peacefully counteract common symptoms like mood swings, agitation, and wandering. We will ensure your loved ones get the care and assistance they need to live safely and comfortably at home.