This page may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through any of these links I will make a small commission. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Symptoms and Effects of Alzheimer’s Disease
What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word “Alzheimer’s”? Memory loss? Old-age? Unable to do daily activities anymore?
As a type of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease profoundly impacts the sufferer’s life and the people and family around them. This condition causes problems with memory, thinking, and behavior functions of the brain, which are essential for daily living. Symptoms are usually slow in progression and only become more prominent in older age.
In this article, I will guide you through the things that you should expect when living with someone who has Alzheimer’s disease. There will be three stages of Alzheimer’s disease symptoms: early or mild, moderate, and late or advanced stage.
Mild Stage: Occasionally Forget Things
Although it will vary by individual, memory loss is usually the most common symptom that is noticed by family and close friends. Alzheimer’s disease always starts with short-term memory loss, where sufferers will have difficulty remembering small things that are happening around them. They may forget where they put the remote, ask the same question twice, or even forget an episode of their favorite TV show they just watched earlier.
This memory loss usually worsens if the disease is not handled correctly, and you notice progression after several conversations with people with Alzheimer’s disease. It is not the same memory loss progression as a person without Alzheimer’s disease would experience with old age; people with Alzheimer’s disease experience a more severe progression of memory loss.
In a small group of people with Alzheimer’s disease, memory loss might not be the most prominent symptom as the disease affects a different part of the brain in each individual. One might experience difficulty in language production, and the other might struggle more performing daily activities, like dressing, tying up shoelaces, and other basic functions a healthy adult would not have problems with.
Most Alzheimer’s disease sufferers can cope with bodily changes at this stage; however, some may need more support as the symptoms get worse.
How would you feel if you gradually forgot your granddaughter’s favorite song that you used to sing together? Or when your son becomes mad because you keep asking the same question? Emotional and psychological support from closest family members and friends is essential at this stage of the disease, as it could significantly affect further disease progression.
Moderate Stage: Confusion And Difficulty To Recognize Relatives
As memory loss progresses over time, long-term memory and more important things like the names of relatives or close friends begin to deteriorate. Even names of the simplest things in everyday life, such as fork, comb, and chair, can be forgotten, and eventually, they won’t know even how to use these objects.
With this in mind, it is extremely important to find ways to help people with Alzheimer’s disease carry out daily activities, as for them doing the simplest daily activity will be a huge struggle. They face memory and language problems, specific movement impairments, and even worse, they will probably lose the ability to do their favorite hobbies.
Have you ever imagined what you would do if someday you were unable to do your favorite hobbies? Whether you like to sing, read a book, or play guitar, the emotional impact of losing these activates and not being able to do anything about it is debilitating and frustrating.
People often feel desperate and hopeless at this stage of the disease as they cannot find anything to bring them joy and relief from the reality of what is happening to them. Emotional and more psychological manifestations might even be more prevalent at this stage as the transition from “almost normal to” “unable” is significant.
They usually become confused about their identity, desperately trying their best to do normal things, but they just can’t. Some people may cry out of nowhere and become more irritable and frustrated. Neuro-psychiatric symptoms like delusions, illusions, hallucinations are also likely to develop at this stage.
Caregivers and family also have a hard time at this stage because things become harder to handle, and patients become more dependent on their peers. There are expert caregivers that can help you at this stage, and you can even consider a long-term care facility instead of home care if it is the best option for everyone involved.
Late Stage: Caregiver Dependent
The final and last stage of Alzheimer’s disease is when the deterioration has spread across all brain functions, and sufferers can do almost nothing independently anymore; all they can hope for is a caregiver who can take care of everything.
What should you expect? By this stage, they will probably have difficulties controlling their urination (pee) and defecation (poop). Even if they can control it, they will not know how to do it as muscle memory movements are forgotten at this point.
Language and speaking difficulties become even more prominent here. They may only be capable of saying one or two phrases at a time, or even worse, and they may experience a complete loss of speech.
Many are also unable to control their emotions, some become aggressive out of the blue, or they can be completely silent and apathetic. Despite all of this, some are still able to perceive emotional signals from their surroundings.
In more extreme cases, Alzheimer’s disease sufferers can develop muscle deterioration as they don’t work their muscles with daily activities. This leads to them being in a bedridden condition where they just stay in bed and depend on their caregiver to take care of all of their needs. Once patients have reached this condition of the disease, they are at risk of developing serious infectious diseases such as pneumonia and pressure ulcers from remaining in bed inactive for such prolonged periods.
The role of caregivers and close family members becomes increasingly important for people with Alzheimer’s disease, and they will totally rely on you to help them keep going. How you take care of them is crucial. They must be cleaned properly and often, so they don’t get an infection, and they need unconditional and relentless emotional and psychological support.
At this stage, it is important to remain positive and seek help in finding the best options for your loved one who has Alzheimer’s disease. Evaluate the situation and seek advice from experts or other families who have gone through the same experience.
Communities of both family members of people living with Alzheimer’s disease, and current Alzheimer’s disease sufferers greatly help by sharing information and exchanging experience. Communities also provide families and sufferers with emotional support.
Overall, Alzheimer’s disease is a debilitating disease that inhibits daily functioning and deteriorates brain functions from memory, language, and movement. The symptoms progress from mild to severe and are accompanied by additional emotional and neuropsychiatric symptoms. Caregivers and family members have essential roles in motivating Alzheimer’s disease sufferers to keep fighting and living life to the best of their abilities.