As the disease progresses and more nerve cells in more parts of the brain are affected, the person with Alzheimer’s may develop new behaviors and exhibit more personality changes. It becomes increasingly apparent to family members that something is amiss as the person’s thinking become even hazier and judgment diminishes. Here’s what may occur:
In the final stage of Alzheimer’s Disease, the disease has eroded the person’s ability to think or reason. The most essential tasks of day-to-day living require assistance, and the person’s personality may be entirely changed. In some cases, the person may be bedridden. A weakened body puts the person at greater risk for other illnesses, which is why many people may die not of Alzheimer’s but of infections such as pneumonia. Some common changes at this stage are:
You’re worried. Memory lapses have become more frequent, and you find yourself frequendy confused about the day of the week, your whereabouts, and what you did just hours ago. A family history of Alzheimer’s has you wondering whether you have the disease. You call your doctor seeking help.
It isn’t easy to distinguish the normal forgetfulness that occurs with aging from the onset of Alzheimer’s. As we get older we gradually lose brain cells, and our brain processes slow making it harder for us to recall a certain event, a name, or a telephone number at a moment’s notice. But scientists now know that these memories are not entirely lost in healthy people. They simply take more time to retrieve.
OTHER TYPES OF DEMENTIA
Alzheimer’s is by no means the only form of dementia. Dementia refers to a whole category of conditions in which the brain is affected to such an extreme that the person loses basic cognitive skills such as thinking, remembering, and reasoning, and can no longer perform daily activities.
A doctor will rely on the results of all these different evaluations to determine whether you have Alzheimer’s, another form of dementia, or another condition that may causing your symptoms. If Alzheimer’s is the most likely reason for your signs and symptoms, the official diagnosis will be probable Alzheimer’s since a diagnosis cannot be confirmed until an autopsy is done. To help doctors make a diagnosis, the National Institute of Neurological and Communicative Disorders and Stroke and the Alzheimer’s Association have established certain criteria:
When you were younger and healthier, seeing a doctor once a year for a checkup was probably the most frequent contact you ever had with a healthcare professional, except for the occasional illness. Or maybe it was picking up a prescription from your local pharmacist. But if you think you or a loved one has Alzheimer’s, you will be seeing a lot more of the healthcare industry. And as you wrestle with the barrage of emotions that having Alzheimer’s Disease can cause, you may be asking the critical question: Who is going to take care of me?
Sometimes, a person may develop dementia as a result of another condition. By curing or at least partially treating the underlying condition, the signs and symptoms of dementia are often partially or completely reversed. Conditions that may cause reversible dementia include the following:
Anyone who cares for the needs of another person is a caregiver. The needs may be temporary, as in the case of a minor surgery, or permanently, as in the case of Alzheimer’s.
NURSE OR NURSE PRACTITIONER
While the doctor may handle most of the medical matters, a nurse can provide invaluable support for the day-to-day health concerns. So while it’s unlikely that you’ll actually choose a nurse, you do want to select a physician whose nursing staff meets your personal needs. The nurse should also be well versed in the care of Alzheimer’s patients, communicate well with you and your loved ones, and treat you with courtesy and respect.