Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia and accounts up to 60% of dementia cases. It is a progressive disease whereby the symptoms will gradually worsen with time. In the beginning, it may just be some memory loss. However, as the condition progresses, the dementia condition will affect one’s ability to perform tasks as well as the reasoning and thinking skills. In late-stage Alzheimer’s, the person may lose the ability to carry on a normal conversation and respond to their environment.
Click to watch Alzheimer’s Society video on Alzheimer’s Disease
Symptoms that can present at each stage of the disease
A. Mild (early stage)
In the early stage of Alzheimer’s, the person may still function independently such as driving, socializing and working. Early symptoms can be subtle. Symptoms at this stage can include;
- Forgetting familiar words or locations
- Difficulty remembering names of new people you meet
- Difficulty performing complex tasks at work
- Forgetting what has just been read
- Tendency to misplace things in the house
- Having trouble with planning or following instructions
B. Moderate (middle stage)
The middle-stage of Alzheimer’s can last a long time (many years) before progressing. During this stage, the dementia symptoms become more obvious. The person can still function in daily activities albeit with assistance but may find difficulty to continue working. Sometimes when they struggle, the person living with dementia may start to get frustrated or angry and react in unexpected ways. Occasionally, the person may also start to withdraw and be quieter because they can no longer follow what is going on around them. At this stage, the person may require extra care (such as closer family supervision or private nursing aide) to do the things they would normally have been able to do themselves. Other symptoms can include;
- Being forgetful about recent events
- Feeling withdrawn with mood swings
- Confusion about time and space
- Having trouble controlling their bladder or bowels or forgetting to wash or bathe
- Difficulty sleeping
- Tendency to wander around and becoming lost or disorientated
- Suspicious or delusions about family and friends
- Repetitive behaviorr
C. Severe (Late Stage)
During the late stage of Alzheimer’s, the symptoms are severe. The person may lose the ability to respond to their environment and to control movement. They may not be able to communicate coherently to make themselves understood and show significant personality changes. At this stage, the patient may need a personal caregiver to attend to the daily needs. Symptoms include
- Loss of physical abilities such as walking, sitting or even swallowing
- Unable to look after daily hygiene such as brushing teeth, bathing or going to toilet
- Difficulty communicating
- Lose weight
- Become vulnerable to infections such as bed sores and lung infections
Treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease
In Alzheimer’s disease, the connections between brain cells are lost due to abnormal proteins build up called ‘plaques’ and ‘tangles’ which eventually causes brain and nerve cell tissue death. Although Alzheimer’s disease has no permanent cure, there are medications which may temporarily slow the worsening of dementia symptoms and improve quality of life.
- Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors such as Donepezil, Rivastigmine and Galantamine are used to treat cholinergic dysfunction interfere with nerve processing
- NMDA receptor antagonist such as Memantine helps to reduce brain cell death
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