By 2050 one in 85 people will be affected by Alzheimer’s Disease. Currently every 70 seconds someone develops this disease. In 2006 there were 26.6 million sufferers worldwide. Most of us will be affected by AD in one way or another throughout our lives, as we become caregivers or have the disease ourselves.
Image losing your memory to the point that you forget your own name and the names of people you love. Alzheimer’s, the most common type of dementia, causes serious loss of cognitive abilities beyond what is normal for a person of a given age. There isn’t a cure and it worsens leading to death. Most often a person is diagnosed with AD after becoming 65, but it can also occur in younger people, when it is called early-onset Alzheimer’s.
There are four stages of the disease:
At this stage the person’s problems are seen as normal aging or caused by stress. Tests can show mild mental trouble up to eight years before an actual diagnosis of AD. One of the biggest changes is memory loss, involving short-term memory and an ability to learn new things. A person might become apathetic and this will be a prevalent symptom for the remainder of the illness.
As a person’s impairments concerning learning and memory increases, a definite diagnosis of AD is made. A few of the victims will have problems with language, decision making, perception and movement as well as memory problems
Things the person learned to do early in his or her life will be less affected than newer facts and memories.
Vocabulary and word fluency become more difficult. The person can communicate basic ideas, but motor skills will be deteriorating slowly as well.
As the disease continues, the person will be able to do things on his or her own, but may need help with the more mentally challenging activities of life.
As the disease progresses people have more trouble living independently doing life’s daily tasks. Speaking, reading and writing become harder to do. Motor skills become less reliable and so the person risks falling.
As memory problems increase the person may not recognize close relatives.
Drastic behavioral changes occur. The person is prone to wander, become irritable, cry, become aggressive and resist caregiving. According to the European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience, 30 percent of people with AD become delusional. At this point they may have trouble with bladder control.
Caregivers often are unable to handle the stress of taking care of someone with moderate AD. This is where the victim is often moved from home to long-term care facilities.
During the final stage, the person is completely dependent upon caregivers. Language regresses to complete speech loss, but still the person can understand emotional signals.
Aggressiveness is often still present, but extreme apathy and exhaustion are common. In this stage people are usually bedbound and have lost the ability to feed themselves. AD is terminal, but often external illnesses like pneumonia are the cause of death.
As we saw in the video a few weeks ago, a person in the moderate/advanced stage of AD can still be called back from what it appears he has lost by the power of music. There is much we do not yet understand about Alzheimer’s Disease; therefore, caregivers, as well as victims, should try not to lose hope.
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