The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease and it accounts for fifty to eighty percent of the reported cases each year. Dementia is a progressive illness that slowly becomes more profound and more noticeable as the years go by. There are three distinctive stages that an Alzheimer’s patient can experience beginning with mild, then moderate, and finally degenerating to severe. The symptoms of each stage are easily identifiable and although the disease is not curable, there are medications and treatments that have been proven to slow the process and lesson the severity of the symptoms.
The first signs that you or a loved one will experience are those that one would expect to see in an aging person. The early signs may include but are not limited to being unaware of their environment when in a familiar place, having difficulty when handling money or conducting business like paying bills. Some patients have a harder time performing everyday activities or may take longer to do things they used to do in a short time. Confusion is a symptom as well; sometimes a patient may misplace everyday items such as putting the iron in the freezer, or display lack of good judgment by dressing for warmth during the peak of summer. In the mild beginning stage, a loved one may show signs of personality change or sudden mood changes.
As the patient progresses to the moderate stage the symptoms of Alzheimer’s becomes increasingly more pronounced. The symptoms and signs to observe range from more acute memory loss and a greater amount of general confusion during situations that should be everyday and routine for them. It is at this stage that a patient suffering from dementia may exhibit difficulties recognizing family members or close friends. The individual may become complacent in regards to their personal hygiene and appearance as multi-stepped tasks become more difficult. In this stage, the sufferer may repeat stories and favorite sayings or expressions more than usual. At this point combination therapy should be considered because studies have shown that a combination of two major medications have slowed or lessened the effects of moderate to severe Alzheimer’s.
If or when an Alzheimer’s patient reaches the severe stage, full-time care will be necessary. This can be the most difficult and heart-breaking point for friends and family to undergo because the patient will no longer have any sustainability as far as recognizing loved ones or themselves. There will be an inability to communicate either verbally or in writing, the patient will be sadly reduced to groaning, grunting, and moaning. The severe stage is also typically accompanied by a loss of bladder and bowel control, accidents become more frequent.
With the right combination of medication and therapy, Alzheimer’s disease can be treated but not cured. Combination therapy has been proven to slow the rate of decline in patients loosing thinking power, behavioral nuances, and functionality. It is important to maintain a constant vigilance over loved ones in order to catch the disease at a manageable stage while being careful not to misdiagnose the symptoms as general signs of aging.