About Alzheimer's disease
Alzheimer's disease is a progressive and degenerative disease that destroys the brain’s vital cells and affects the patient's thought, memory, comprehension and decision-making abilities. In addition to impairing the mental abilities, the disease also impacts moods and emotions. It causes changes in the patient’s patterns of behavior and results in the loss of certain functions and capabilities.
Duration of the disease:
Everyone is impacted differently by Alzheimer’s disease: the development of the disease and the time period vary from one person to the next. The average time period can be anything between 8 to 12 years.
The disease normally progresses along stages, which are described as being (i) early (mild); (ii) middle (moderate); and (iii) late (severe).
There is no clear dividing line between the stages or the duration of them, and the order in which the symptoms appear varies from one individual to another. There are people who display many symptoms during each stage, compared with others who display only a small number of symptoms – generally, at each stage, the symptoms worsen and new ones appear.
The three stages of Alzheimer's disease
1. The early stage (mild)
Most people will be aware of the changes happening to them during this stage, and will be able to participate in the decision-making process regarding continued treatment. A major change at this time is memory loss, accompanied by symptoms such as mild forgetfulness and communication problems – for example, difficulty finding the right word, or difficulty following the course of a conversation. Some people become passive and withdrawn, while others remain involved in what is happening around them. Naturally the sense of frustration due to the changes in their abilities may often lead to depression or anxiety. Therefore, it is important for the caregiver to be alert and attentive, and monitor the emotional state of the patient.
2. Middle stage (moderate)
This step brings further decrease of mental skills and physical abilities, leaving the patient with a sense of confusion and disorientation. Memory weakens and the patient starts to forget their own personal details and history, as well as having difficulty recognizing family and friends. New patterns of behavior appear, such as withdrawing from social involvement, repeating the same action repeatedly, restlessness, and roaming around aimlessly. The impact of this stage leads to new requirements and the patient usually needs help performing everyday functions such as dressing, bathing and going to the toilet.
3. Late stage (severe)
During the last stage the patient loses the ability to remember, to communicate and to care for himself, thus requiring around the clock care. During the most advanced stages of the disease, the patient will be bedridden; will suffer from difficulties eating and swallowing; and will lose control of bowel movements. This phase ends with death, often through secondary complications such as pneumonia.