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Alzheimer’s and Dementia Awareness – Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment

Oct 07

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.

Identifying Alzheimer’s

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.

Alzheimer’s Symptoms

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.

  1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life
  2. Challenges in planning or solving problems
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks
  4. Confusion with time or place
  5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
  6. New problems with words in speaking or writing
  7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
  8. Decreased or poor judgment
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities
  10. 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:

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.

Alzheimer’s Diagnosis

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:

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:

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 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.

Early-Stage Alzheimer’s

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:

Middle-Stage Alzheimer’s

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:

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.

Late-Stage Alzheimer’s

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:

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

Alzheimer’s Treatments

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:

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

FAQs

Get Tested For Alzheimer’s Disease Early