Recognizing the symptoms and seven stages of Alzheimer’s disease

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(December 10, 2015) -- Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S. and two-thirds of its victims are women. It’s worth noting the symptoms, so medication can be administered early to slow the progression of this debilitating illness.

According to WebMD, there are seven stages of Alzheimer’s.

When your loved one is in the earliest phase, he or she won’t have any symptoms you can spot.  Only a PET scan, which is an imaging test of the brain, can show how the brain is working and reveal whether that person has Alzheimer’s.

In stage two of the illness, a caregiver or spouse may not notice anything amiss, but he or she may be picking up on small differences, things that even a doctor won’t catch. This could include forgetting a word or misplacing objects.  These problems, which are subtle, don’t interfere with the patient’s ability to work or live independently. Bear in mind, these symptoms may not be Alzheimer’s at all, but simply normal changes from aging.

In stage four, the subtle problems spotted in phase 3 become more obvious.  The patient might forget details about himself, have trouble putting the right date and amount on a check, forget what month or season it is and even have trouble cooking meals or ordering from a menu.

Stage five is marked by your loved one starting to lose track of where he or she is and what time it is. They might have trouble remembering their address, phone number or where they went to school.  They can become confused about what kind of clothes to wear for the day or season.

That’s why winter time can be problematic for Alzheimer’s patients. American Senior Communities memory care facilitator, Katy Messuri has some advice:

“They may or may not think to put on a coat before going outside in the winter months.  For some folks too, it may be beneficial for them to have a life alert or a GPS unit.  So if they do wander out, they’re easily tracked in the community.”

In stage six, caregivers and spouses will see obvious signs.  Their loved one might recognize faces but forget names or mistake a person for someone else. Delusions might set in, such as thinking they need to go to work even though they no longer has a job.  That person might also need help going to the bathroom.

Finally, WebMD says stage seven is best described as a very severe decline.

Many basic abilities simply go away. Eating, walking and sitting up fade during this period. Swallowing food may be difficult.

For more on American Senior Communities approach to treatment and care of patients with Alzheimer’s, click here.

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