Alzheimer’s and Dementia Awareness – Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment
While you have likely heard of Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia, most people don’t understand the differences or are aware of the symptoms. Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia. Alzheimer’s is a specific disease while dementia is not.
Learning about the two terms and the difference between them is important and can empower individuals living with Alzheimer’s or another dementia, their families, and their caregivers with necessary knowledge.
Alzheimer’s is a degenerative brain disease that is caused by complex brain changes following cell damage. It leads to dementia symptoms that gradually worsen with aging. The most common early symptom of Alzheimer’s is trouble remembering new information because the disease typically impacts the part of the brain associated with learning first.
As Alzheimer’s advances, symptoms become more severe and include disorientation, confusion, and behavior changes. Eventually, speaking, swallowing, and walking becomes difficult.
Memory loss that disrupts daily life may be a symptom of Alzheimer’s or other dementia. Alzheimer’s is a brain disease that causes a slow decline in memory, thinking, and reasoning skills. There are 10 warning signs and symptoms to be aware of. If you notice any of these warning signs, do not ignore them. Schedule an appointment with your doctor or medical provider.
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life
- Challenges in planning or solving problems
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks
- Confusion with time or place
- Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
- New problems with words in speaking or writing
- Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
- Decreased or poor judgment
- Withdrawal from work or social activities
- Changes in mood and personality
Alzheimer’s Awareness & Alzheimer’s Diagnosis
Alzheimer’s Early Detection
Online, at-home Alzheimer’s tests and quizzes such as a Self-Administered Gerocognitive Exam (SAGE) are designed by researchers and check for memory or thinking problems that could be early signs of Alzheimer’s disease. While this can help in determining early detection, no online test can definitely tell you if a loved one has Alzheimer’s disease.
Some online tests are advertisements pretending to be real tests in order to promote brain training products. Look for at-home or online tests that include:
- Modified CDR Test
- SAGE Test
- Clock Drawing Test
- Mini-Mental State Exam
- Peanut Butter Test
If you fear you or a loved one have Alzheimer’s, schedule an appointment with your doctor or medical provider to discuss early detection testing and options.
Clinical tests for Alzheimer’s and Dementia by a health professional are needed in order to diagnose the disease. To diagnose Alzheimer’s dementia, medical professionals conduct tests to assess:
- Memory impairment and other thinking skills.
- Judge functional abilities
- Identify behavior changes.
- Perform a series of tests to rule out other possible causes of impairment.
To diagnose Alzheimer’s dementia, your primary doctor, a doctor trained in brain conditions (neurologist), or a doctor trained to treat older adults (geriatrician) will review your medical history, medication history, and your symptoms. Your doctor will also conduct several tests.
During your appointment, your doctor or medical provider will evaluate:
- Whether you have impaired memory or thinking (cognitive) skills.
- Whether you exhibit changes in personality or behaviors.
- The degree of your memory or thinking impairment or changes.
- How your thinking problems affect your ability to function in daily life.
- The cause of your symptoms.
Doctors may order additional laboratory tests, brain-imaging tests, or refer you for memory testing. These tests can provide doctors with useful information for diagnosis, including ruling out other conditions that cause similar symptoms.
Identifying Alzheimer’s & Alzheimer’s Stages
Alzheimer’s disease typically progresses slowly in three general stages: early, middle and late (sometimes referred to as mild, moderate, and severe in a medical context). Since Alzheimer’s affects people in different ways, each person may experience symptoms — or progress through the stages — differently.
In the early stage of Alzheimer’s, a person may function independently. He or she may still drive, work and be part of social activities. Despite this, the person may feel as if he or she is having memory lapses, such as forgetting familiar words or the location of everyday objects.
Symptoms may not be widely apparent at this stage, but family and close friends may take notice and a doctor would be able to identify symptoms using certain diagnostic tools.
Common difficulties include:
- Coming up with the right word or name.
- Remembering names when introduced to new people.
- Having difficulty performing tasks in social or work settings.
- Forgetting material that was just read.
- Losing or misplacing a valuable object.
- Experiencing increased trouble with planning or organizing.
Middle-stage Alzheimer’s (or Moderate Alzheimer’s) is typically the longest stage and can last for many years. As the disease progresses, the person with Alzheimer’s will require a greater level of care.
During the middle stage of Alzheimer’s, the dementia symptoms are more pronounced. the person may confuse words, get frustrated or angry, and act in unexpected ways, such as refusing to bathe. Damage to nerve cells in the brain can also make it difficult for the person to express thoughts and perform routine tasks without assistance.
Symptoms, which vary from person to person, may include:
- Being forgetful of events or personal history.
- Feeling moody or withdrawn, especially in socially or mentally challenging situations.
- Being unable to recall information about themselves like their address or telephone number, and the high school or college they attended.
- Experiencing confusion about where they are or what day it is.
- Requiring help choosing proper clothing for the season or the occasion.
- Having trouble controlling their bladder and bowels.
- Experiencing changes in sleep patterns, such as sleeping during the day and becoming restless at night.
- Showing an increased tendency to wander and become lost.
- Demonstrating personality and behavioral changes, including suspiciousness and delusions or compulsive, repetitive behavior like hand-wringing or tissue shredding.
In the middle stage, the person living with Alzheimer’s can still participate in daily activities with assistance. It’s important to find out what the person can still do or find ways to simplify tasks. As the need for more intensive care increases, caregivers may want to consider respite care or an adult day center so they can have a temporary break from caregiving while the person living with Alzheimer’s continues to receive care in a safe environment.
In the final stage of the disease, dementia symptoms are severe. Individuals lose the ability to respond to their environment, carry on a conversation, and (eventually) control movements. They may still say words or phrases, but communicating pain becomes difficult. As memory and cognitive skills continue to worsen, significant personality changes may take place and individuals need extensive care.
At this stage, individuals may:
- Require around-the-clock assistance with daily personal care.
- Lose awareness of recent experiences as well as of their surroundings.
- Experience changes in physical abilities, including walking, sitting and, eventually, swallowing
- Have difficulty communicating.
- Become vulnerable to infections, especially pneumonia.
The person living with Alzheimer’s may not be able to initiate engagement as much during the late stage, but he or she can still benefit from interaction in ways that are appropriate, like listening to relaxing music or receiving reassurance through gentle touch. During this stage, caregivers may want to use support services, such as hospice care, which focus on providing comfort and dignity at the end of life. Hospice can be of great benefit to people and their families in the final stages of Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
Alzheimer’s Treatment & Help With Alzheimer’s
Reluctance to visit a physician when you or a family member has memory problems is understandable. Some people hide their symptoms, or family members cover for them. That’s easy to understand because Alzheimer’s dementia is associated with loss, such as loss of independence, loss of driving privileges, and loss of self. Many people may wonder if there’s any point in a diagnosis if there’s no cure for the disease.
It’s true that if you have Alzheimer’s dementia or a related disease, doctors can’t offer a cure. But getting an early diagnosis can be beneficial. Knowing what you can do is just as important as knowing what you can’t do.
For those with Alzheimer’s dementia, doctors can offer medicine in the form of a drug as well as non-drug interventions that may ease the burden of the disease. Doctors often prescribe medications that may slow the decline in memory and other cognitive skills. You may also be able to participate in clinical trials.
Also, doctors can teach you and your caregivers about strategies to enhance your living environment, establish routines, plan activities and manage changes in skills to minimize the effect of the disease on your everyday life.
Importantly, an early diagnosis also helps you, your family, and caregivers plan for the future. You’ll have the chance to make informed decisions on a number of issues, such as:
- Appropriate community services and resources
- Options for residential and at-home care
- Plans for handling financial issues
- Expectations for future care and medical decisions
Help With Alzheimer’s & Alzheimer’s Doctor Near Me
Getting Help for Someone with Alzheimer’s Disease
The first step is always looking for signs and getting diagnosed. If you or a loved one in Wichita, KS feel that Alzheimer’s or Dementia could be impacting your life, contact HealthCore Clinic to schedule an appointment with a mental health specialist.
Some caregivers need help when the person is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Other caregivers look for help when the person is in the later stages of Alzheimer’s. It’s okay to seek help whenever you need it. If you are looking for Alzheimer’s treatment near you, HealthCore is here to help.
Typical Questions About Alzheimer’s Disease
- What kind of doctor treats Alzheimer’s patients?Your primary doctor, a doctor trained in brain conditions, or a doctor trained to treat older adults can help you diagnose Alzheimer’s. A neurologist or geriatrician is a medical specilist trained to treat Alzheimer’s.
- How often should a dementia patient see a doctor?We recommend regular doctor visits every six months. If you experience a suddent change, please seek medical help right away.
- Do Alzheimer’s patients sleep a lot?It is common for people with Alzheimer’s disease have a tendency to sleep a lot during the day, even when they have had a full night’s sleep.
- How long do people with Alzheimer’s live?There is no set answer to this. The symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease worsen over time, although the rate at which the disease progresses varies. On average, a person with Alzheimer’s lives four to eight years after diagnosis, but can live as long as 20 years, depending on other factors.
- What is the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s?Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia.
- What causes Alzheimer’s?Scientists don’t yet fully understand what causes Alzheimer’s disease in most people. The causes probably include a combination of age-related changes in the brain, along with genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. The importance of any one of these factors in increasing or decreasing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease may differ from person to person.
- Can you take an online Alzheimer’s test?Yes. You can take a Self-Administered Gerocognitive Exam (SAGE), a Modified CDR Test, a Mini-Cog, or a Mini-Mental State Exam. Other popular tests include drawing the face of a clock and the “Penut Butter Test.”
- Why is alzheimer’s awareness important?Alzheimer’s awareness is important so people know that treatment is more effective than is commonly reported can help drive more people to their physicians at early stage of symptoms before irreparable brain damage has occurred.
- Why is dementia awareness important?Dementia awareness helps people understand issues they or people they know may be experiencing and find out where and from whom to obtain further advice about possible diagnosis, available support, care and treatment.
- Alzheimer’s Screening WichitaYou can schedule an appointment at HealthCore Clinic in Wichita or your local medical provider to test for Alzheimer’s symptoms and get an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
- Is there Alzheimer’s treatment in Wichita?If you are searching for Alzheimer’s screening Wichita or searching for an Alzheimer’s doctor in Wichita there are many options. HealthCore Clinic can help with identifying Alzheimer’s and providing an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. You may need a Wichita dementia doctor. Regardless, if you are searching for an Alzheimer’s doctor near me, HealthCore Clinic can help.
- Is Alzheimer’s disease hereditary?Just because a family member has Alzheimer’s disease does not mean that you will get it, too. Most cases of Alzheimer’s are late-onset. However, genetic factors appear to increase a person’s risk of developing late-onset Alzheimer’s.
- Is there a way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease?Currently, there is no definitive evidence about what can prevent Alzheimer’s disease or age-related cognitive decline. What we do know is that a healthy lifestyle — one that includes a healthy diet, physical activity, appropriate weight, and control of high blood pressure — can lower the risk of certain chronic diseases and boost overall health and well-being.