Alzheimer’s Disease is also known as senile dementia which is a very common condition. There are over 3,000,000 cases of Alzheimer’s Disease diagnosed in the US alone each year. Alzheimer’s cannot currently but cured, but there are many ways that treatment can help depending on the individual case. There is currently no imaging or laboratory testing available to definitively determine if an individual is suffering from Alzheimer’s or some other similar condition. Alzheimer’s is chronic and lasts for the rest of a person’s life, typically getting progressively worse as time goes on.
Alzheimer’s Disease is a condition seen when the brain cell connections and the cells themselves degenerate and die eventually destroying the memory and other key functions of the brain. While no cure yet exists for Alzheimer’s disease, there are a variety of therapies and medications that can help make the experience easier for the patient, their family, and their caregiver(s).
Early onset for Alzheimer’s can begin as young as around 40 years of age. Most cases, however, are diagnosed in individuals older than age 60. Alzheimer’s can be managed by offering medications such as Aricept, Razadyne, Nameand, and Exelon to name a few. The goal of these medications along with a strict, regimented schedule can help Alzheimer’s patients become comfortable with their daily life and routine as they long for familiarity and consistency. This, in turn, can help many Alzheimer’s patients retain their ability to perform daily functions as the disease progresses further.
Furthermore, physical therapy can help keep the patient in good shape so they can bounce back from any physical injuries that many happen. This does not have to be a strenuous workout by any means, but the patient should enjoy ample time to be physically active and do something they enjoy (i.e. going on a walk, dancing, playing a recreational sport [younger patients]) daily or at least several times a week (i.e. 4-5x per week minimum).
There are 7 stages of Alzheimer’s but more serious symptoms usually begin being shown in Stage 3. Doctors and professionals ideally want to diagnose people between Stages 2-3 at the latest. The earlier Alzheimer’s is diagnosed the easier it is to treat the condition to help preserve the person’s independence and daily functioning long as possible. By Stage 4 the patient will usually see additional moodiness and temperament changes, and some people often around the individual notice profound declines from the functioning the person was capable of even at Stage 3. The patient can still feed, drink, shower/bathe, and toilet by themselves independently as well as reliably.
By Stage 5 common information like one’s telephone number, address, or the high school the patient attended is hard for them to recall, if at all possible. They can become confused as to what day of the week it is, or what certain holidays or special occasions mean. The ability to choose proper attire is beginning to show itself. For example, they might want to put a nightgown on to go to the mall, or a pant suit on to go to sleep. Providing some proper guidance helps keep the person making appropriate decisions for the occasion/activity at hand. Sometimes at this stage people have to be reminded to use the toilet, shower/bathe, or get dressed, however with reminders most patients will still perform these functions fairly reliably on their own.
By Stage 6 the person loses all general recollection of their personal past, and they may not recognize even close relatives (i.e. parents, siblings, children, etc.). Eating, drinking, showering/bathing, and toileting are usually possible, but some aid is needed. For example, they may use the restroom and forget to wash their hands or not flush the toilet. They may shower and leave the water running, or forget to use soap.
Stage 7 is the ending stage of Alzheimer’s when a person tends to lose their personality and emotion. Many people at this stage are nonverbal, and others never smile or laugh anymore. Many lose control of their bowel and bladder functions. Sometimes the ability to walk and move about are also impeded. Daily hygiene requires complete and total assistance. Many experience rigid muscles, and swallowing is severely impaired. Some rare cases require feeding tubes or breathing tubes to assist in vital functions.
In the end, Alzheimer’s itself cannot kill anyone, but generally speaking results of other conditions stemming from Alzheimer’s do. It can be anything from choking to a fall or something like a cold, flu, or pneumonia that are ultimately the end of the journey for a person experiencing something generative like Alzheimer’s Disease.