Alzheimer's disease is a progressive neurological disease seen primarily in elderly adults ages 60 and older. Alzheimer’s disease negatively impacts memory and other important mental functions. Over five million Americans have this condition. It is the sixth leading cause of death among U.S. adults. Alzheimer’s disease can prevent you from being able to carry out both complex and simple daily functions. If you have this condition, you may require daily assistance to complete basic life tasks as the disease progresses. Alzheimer’s disease cannot be cured, but with help, the symptoms can be managed. 

Symptoms

Alzheimer's disease generally progresses in three stages -  mild, moderate, and severe. As soon as you notice symptoms that could be early signs of this disease in yourself or a loved one, you should speak to a doctor. Early treatment will result in a better outcome. Testing including CT, MRI, and PET scans can help your doctor diagnose Alzheimer’s disease and create the right treatment plan.

The symptoms of mild Alzheimer's disease may include:

  • Problems remembering a word or name in conversation
  • Losing objects or chronic disorganization
  • Challenges performing or remembering tasks in a work or social setting
  • Sudden problems remembering  people, places, names, dates, and events
  • Problems handling money

The symptoms of moderate Alzheimer’s disease may include:

  • Forgetfulness of important past life events or information, like where you graduated from school or your wedding
  • Becoming moody and withdrawn, especially in social situations
  • Unexplained sudden agitation or confusion
  • Having trouble dressing yourself appropriately or remembering your possessions
  • Difficulty remembering to take medications
  • Trouble controlling your bodily functions
  • Becoming lost even in a familiar area or your own home

The symptoms of severe Alzheimer’s disease may include:

  • Extreme personality and behavioral changes including paranoia and agitation
  • Difficulty communicating 
  • A failure to recognize familiar surroundings
  • Inability to perform basic home and self-care tasks like bathing or taking medication
  • Wandering or an inability to be left unattended 
  • Increasing difficulty with sitting, walking, and swallowing
  • Inability to recognize close family and friends or remember recent events
  • Acting out in shocking or uncharacteristic ways, like refusing to dress or sexual innuendo

Causes

Alzheimer’s disease is caused by a complex series of brain changes. If you have this condition, you will develop plaques throughout your amygdala that grow as the disease progresses. These plaques negatively impact your brain function. Some factors can make you more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease including:

  • Genetics - if others in your family have developed Alzheimer’s disease, you are at greater risk of developing it too
  • Most people with Alzheimer’s disease are over 65. After age 65, your risk of developing this condition increases by 50% every five years 
  • If you have suffered a head injury, you are at higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease
  • If you suffer from cardiovascular problems, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or have had a stroke or heart attack, your risk is increased 
  • Elderly African-American and Latino people are at a higher risk of developing this condition 

Treatment

There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. However, the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease can be treated using medication, therapy, and support for patients and their families.

Medication: Medications are available to treat Alzheimer’s disease symptoms, including memory loss, anxiety, paranoia, and depression. Some medications can also help slow the progression of the disease. Your physician can help you design a treatment plan that includes medication to treat your symptoms. 

Therapy: Many types of therapy can help Alzheimer’s disease patients and their families see a significant improvement in their quality of life. Learn more about your treatment options at the Memory Clinic at Sheppard Pratt. 

Support: Alzheimer's disease isn’t just stressful for patients, it can also be stressful for caregivers. Find tips and support if you are a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer's disease. Connecting with other patients and professionals in a support group can help those with Alzheimer's disease learn coping skills. Get in touch with a support group through Sheppard Pratt today.