What Is Alzheimer's Disease & How Does It Progress?
Alzheimer's disease is a form of dementia that is most commonly diagnosed in people over 65. The disease itself is categorized by loss of memory and cognition, and it typically progresses through three stages: the mild stage, the moderate stage, and the severe stage. And while there are currently no cures available for Alzheimer's disease, there are some emerging treatments.
How Does Alzheimer's Disease Progress?
Alzheimer's disease typically begins long before a person shows any symptoms of the disease, and this is called the preclinical stage. During this time, which may last for many years, changes in the brain, like the buildup of plaques and loss of connections between nerve cells, start to occur. However, once a person begins showing signs of the disease, the mild or early stage begins.
What Does Mild Alzheimer's Disease Look Like?
The first clinical stage of Alzheimer's disease, often called mild or early-stage Alzheimer's disease, is categorized by mild cognitive impairment. This impairment usually shows as small memory lapses or trouble with planning out tasks. Often, family members and friends can notice symptoms such as:
- Forgetting names
- Losing and misplacing items
- Asking repetitive questions
During the mild stage, many people can still perform tasks of daily life, like eating, dressing, and bathing. It can be difficult to predict how long this stage will last, but it tends to last a few months in people who are over 80 years old and up to a year or longer in those under 80. Often, for those under 65, this stage lasts much longer, taking a few years.
What Does Moderate Alzheimer's Disease Look Like?
Moderate Alzheimer's disease, also known as the middle stage of the disease, is usually the longest stage, and it can last for quite a few years. This stage also varies greatly from person to person, but some common symptoms that family members or friends may notice include:
- Changes in mood, such as increased anger or sadness
- Increased withdrawal from social situations
- Confusion about the day, time, or location
- Difficulty controlling the bladder and bowel
- Repetitive hand movements
Caregivers of people with moderate forms of this disease must remember that safety is key at this stage. Often, those living with Alzheimer’s may wander or become lost easily, so loved ones should keep them within eyesight at all times. Dangerous items, like kitchen knives, should also be moved to a safe place that they cannot access.
What Does Severe Alzheimer's Disease Look Like?
The final stage of Alzheimer's disease is the severe or late stage, which lasts until the end of their life. Those living in this stage require an intensive level of care, and symptoms may include:
- Difficulty moving or swallowing
- Loss of communication
- An inability to walk
Hospice care is commonly given to people in this stage of the disease to remain comfortable at the end of their lives.
Are There Treatments for Alzheimer's Disease?
While there are currently no cures for this disease, there are some emerging treatments available that can help slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease. For example, some medicines have been introduced to prevent and remove plaques from the brain, and ongoing research is creating the potential for more medicines to become available in the future.
If your loved one is struggling with Alzheimer's disease, consider memory care facilities that specialize in caring for patients with dementia. Here at The Plaza at Edgemere, our memory care community is known for providing residents with multiple levels of support; plus, we offer the international Music & Memory program, which aims to promote quality of life in those with memory decline or loss through music. Our team is here to help you and your loved ones with their disease at any stage. To learn more about what The Plaza at Edgemere offers, contact us at (214) 225-7990.