Alzheimers's Disease

There are several stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Even though you may not be aware of what stage you are in, your body and behaviors are all tied in together. Family members and peers may notice the small changes but may not know why or when it started. The overall stages can last more than a decade after being diagnosed. Keeping in mind that everyone’s different, it’s helpful to think about three Alzheimer’s stages. Very mild, mild, moderate and severe.

Very mild Alzheimer’s Disease

Is it just forgetfulness, or is it Alzheimer’s? Persons at the beginning stages are in a state of confusion as to what is causing them to forget or misplace items. Memory lapses can be frustrating, but most of the time they aren’t a cause for concern. Memory changes become a concern when others notice that something is not right.

Mild Alzheimer’s Disease

A person can still function on their own with a mild case of Alzheimer’s. Family members that are present most of the time are the ones that notice these unusual circumstances. Having trouble remembering what you’ve just read, or details of a conversation. Forgetting names of acquaintances or blocking one memory with a similar one. Increasing trouble with planning or organizing affairs. Forgetting important dates or events. Losing or misplacing a valuable item are all signs that something has changed with your loved one.

Moderate Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease for any family member is challenging, but once your loved one has been diagnosed with moderate alzheimer’s the process of understanding and relating to the disease is the next step. Most patients become lost or disoriented. They repeatedly ask the same questions. They can’t dress themselves appropriately. Neglect of personal care and safety. They will often let their responsibilities of paying bills and performing routine tasks go undone. Their judgment and abstract thinking is impaired. Their speed of learning slows down and short-term memory takes longer to function.

Severe Alzheimer’s Disease

We often want to protect our loved ones with the security of knowing someone is there with them at all times, but during this stage of their Alzheimer’s disease it is wise to have someone care for them. At this point they do not recognize family members or familiar places. They will often wonder around with no sense of direction. Disorientation to time and place is inevitable. They are unable to cook and sometimes feed themselves. Falls become a concern due to balance disorders.

Symptoms of early onset Alzheimer’s

  • Difficulty with Concentration and Completing Familiar Tasks
    • Some examples are the ability to drive safely and getting lost while driving a commonly traveled route
  • Losing track of time and dates
    • Planning for future is difficult. The individual may talk about things that happened 20 or 30 years ago like it was yesterday.
  • Vision Loss
    • Difficulty reading and judging distances and color contrast while driving
  • Difficulty Finding the Right Words
    • Participating in conversations becomes more difficult. Repetitive conversations are likely to occur.
  • Misplacing Items Often
    • Misplacing items often leads to the individual thinking that others are stealing. This may lead you or a loved one to think that others are stealing
  • Difficulty Making Decisions
    • Rapid decline in bathing frequency and poor financial decisions

Late stage and end-of-life care

In the final stages of life-limiting illness, it can become evident that in spite of the best care, attention, and treatment, your loved one is approaching the end of life. Loss of appetite, decreased need for food and fluids are evident during the end of life care. Labored, irregular, shallow, or noisy breathing are symptoms that should not be ignored.

Emotional comfort and support should be given to your loved one at this crucial time. Reassuring your loved one it is okay to die can help both of you through this process.

Alzheimer’s and seizures

Having Alzheimer’s disease not only places you at risk for memory loss, it can also place you at risk of developing a seizure disorder.The connection between Alzheimer’s and seizures provides additional avenues for research into the basic biology of both diseases, and possibly interventions and therapies to respond to the overall impact of Alzheimer’s disease. The most common types of seizures seen in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease include Complex partial seizures and generalized tonic-clonic seizures.

Complex partial seizures

All seizures are caused by abnormal electrical disturbances in the brain. Complex partial seizures occur when this electrical activity remains in a limited area of the brain. Complex partial seizures might arise from any lobe of the brain. Patients with complex partial seizures will have abnormal consciousness and may or may not remember any or all of the symptoms or events surrounding the seizure. While this type of seizure does not appear to be very common, apparently some Alzheimer’s patients do experience them.

Unlike the severe convulsions of a grand mal seizure, partial complex seizures are characterized by symptoms as subtle as incoherence or odd arm, leg or mouth movements. Some may stagger or wander about aimlessly. They can also cause staring and non purposeful movements, such as repeated hand rubbing, lip smacking, vocalization or swallowing.

Generalized tonic-clonic seizures

When seizures seem to involve all of the brain, the seizures are called generalized. Generalized tonic-clonic which is also called a grand mal seizure. The most intense of all types of seizures, these are characterized by a loss of consciousness, body stiffening and shaking, and sometimes tongue biting or loss of bladder control.

This seizure is divided into two phases, the tonic phase and the clonic phase. The tonic phase is usually the shortest part of the seizure, usually lasting only a few seconds. The person may also express vocalizations like a loud moan during the tonic stage, due to air forcefully expelled from the lungs. The clonic phase may range from exaggerated twitches of the limbs to violent shaking or vibrating of the stiffened extremities. The person may roll and stretch as the seizure spreads. The eyes typically roll back or close and the tongue often suffers bruising sustained by strong jaw contractions. Incontinence is seen in some cases.

Seizures

Seizures occur when there’s a sudden change in the normal way your brain cells communicate through electrical signals. During a seizure, some brain cells send abnormal signals which stop other cells from working properly. This abnormality may cause temporary changes in sensation, behavior, movement or consciousness. Signs and symptoms may vary depending on the type of seizure.