The Symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease

By Janie Jonah

Alzheimer's Disease is a disease that impairs the brain and causes memory loss, particularly in the elderly. What in effect happens is that nerve cells in the brain die manifesting itself with symptoms of memory loss. Nerve cells are crucial to the process of recall. Although the disease develops slowly it will eventually lead to death. Alzheimer's disease is the 9th most common cause of death for those who are 65 years old or more. It is worth noting that the average time from diagnosis till death is approximately 8 years, although some suffers have lived for 20 years, before the disease leads to death.

Alzheimer's disease is very common among the elderly, particularly those who are over 65 years old. 36% of those who are 85 years old or more suffer from Alzheimer's disease. This is a substantial increase from those in their late 60's of whom around 4% suffer from the disease.

Alzheimer's develops slowly and the first signs of the disease are often seen as simple forgetfulness. Eventually the disease becomes noticeable through the sufferer not being able to make decisions, think clearly and begin to struggle with daily tasks we all take for granted. The most effective way to understand an manage or diagnose someone with Alzheimer's is by looking that the disease as a series of stages. Each stage has a number of symptoms that may be presenting in a patient in that stage of the disease. Not all sufferers present with the exact same symptoms and it is not uncommon for symptoms to overlap from one stage to the next. During the early stage can be quite difficult to diagnose the disease as it is not uncommon for sufferers to present symptoms one day and then appear to be healthy the next. Let us now look at the symptoms that are associated with each stage of the disease: early, middle and late.

During the early stage of the disease, the person may be prone to forgetfulness and find it difficult to make decisions. They may have trouble accounting for recent events or interactions with others and may also become muddled as to what day or month it is. This can make shopping difficult and they will struggle to manage their money and paying bills may become something they may not be able to cope with effectively. They are also prone to losing things such as their house keys, or where they parked the car in the car-park.

In the middle stage of the disease, life becomes increasingly more difficult as unhelpful behaviours become apparent, some of which include, inappropriate sexual and violent behaviour. Some of the psychological symptoms that develop are anger, eating problems and hallucinations. They can become suspicious and paranoid. They develop a fear of bathing also and can often be heard repeating speech. As their condition worsens and they become more forgetful, they will begin to require help dressing themselves. Other daily tasks such as bathing, brushing teeth, and taking medication may be activities that they will require help with at this stage of the disease. They need constant care every day. They lose the ability to communicate and understand and may not recognize their own family. Along with this goes the ability to read and write, including the loss of coordination.

The late stage of the disease the symptoms that develop mean that they will require more help from carers as they lose the ability to communicate. They are unable to walk and smile and lose the ability to perform personal hygiene routines, and they may develop incontinence. The loss of control of their physical abilities also leads to them needing help swallowing. They are also at risk of seizures, and often lose a large amount of weight. These symptoms are a guide to those seeking a general overview of Alzheimer's Disease, and should not be treated as a diagnosis. Always consult your doctor or medical physician for a more thorough examination and diagnosis.

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