If someone you know or love has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, you’ll need tto understand how the disease advancesover time. Alzheimer’s is a progressive braindisease which causes gradual impairment of the patient’s memory and ability to think.
The progression of Alzheimer’s Disease can be roughly divided intothree stages basedon symptomatology–mild, moderate, and severe. Due to the effects of treatment as wellas individual differences, each patient’s diseasewill progress at a slightly different rate.This progression can takeup to7-10 years to complete its course. It’s important torecognize these stagesof Alzheimer’s diseasein order to better plan care for the care ofthe patientand minimize the impact on family dynamics.
In the early, or mild stage, of Alzheimer’s Disease, symptoms may be subtle withoccasional memory losses, difficulty with reasoning, and mild personality changes. Thepatient may forget familiar names and words as well as fail to rememberwhere they’veplacedobjects. Personality changes may become apparent withthe performance ofatypical behaviors and angry outbursts. The Alzheimer’s patientmay become morewithdrawn and avoid social and mental challenges. At this stage, the patient is usuallystill able totake care of himself but mayrequire assistance in certain areas.
As the disease progresses into the middle, or moderate stage, of Alzheimer’s Disease,problems with memory and judgmentbecome much more apparent. The patientstartstoforget the names offriends and family, the time and day, and hisown personalinformation, although heusually still remembers his own name. Theability to reason andcommunicategraduallybecomes more severely impaired. Hisability to write and speakbecomes limited due toinability to comprehend or remember. When unable to remember,the Alzheimer’s patient will often repeat himselfor make up fabricated information whenquestioned. At this Alzheimer’s disease stage, the patient becomes markedly morewithdrawn and may havepoor contact with reality. The Alzheimer’s patient needs closemonitoring because of histendency to wander and perform inappropriate behaviorsduring this period. Heusually needshelp with their activities of daily living and can’t beleft unattended dueto safety concerns.
Symptoms becomemore pronounced during the final, or late stages, of Alzheimer’sdisease. There is an almost complete deterioration of the previous personality with ageneralized apathy and lack of interest in life. At thisAlzheimer’sdiseasestage, thepatient is unable to recognize family or friends and appears withdrawn and unresponsive.Hemay exhibit strange emotional outbursts as well as problems with movement. Thepatient will also manifest more physical problems which may include seizures, severeweight loss, loss or urinary and bowel continence, and difficulties with swallowing. Atthis stage, the patient requiresaround the nursing care and will continue to requireintensive monitoring as the disease completes its final course.
With appropriate planning, accommodations can be made to ensure the patient is wellattendedthroughout the stages of Alzheimer’s disease. By recognizing these stages andresponding appropriately, the patient can be made to feel more comfortable as the disease progresses. With better understanding of the stages of this progressive disease, familymembers can be better prepared for what the future holds.