Understanding how Alzheimer’s affects the brain and the stages your loved one will go through as they go through the progression of the disease will make it easier for you to support them. Caregivers and family members need to pay close attention to changes in their senior loved one’s thinking.
Throughout your life, your brain will go through many changes. Memory lapses and forgetfulness will become more common and not always a cause for concern. But, as this happens to you or your loved one you may begin to question what’s normal or a sign of Alzheimer’s disease?
It’s best if Alzheimer’s disease is detected in an early stage. That gives your senior loved one the chance to live a more fulfilling life. They can then receive the assistance and rehabilitation they need.
If you are interested in learning about the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and how you can support your senior loved one with their memory disease, continue reading.
How Alzheimer’s affects the brain
When the brain is healthy, it contains tens of billions of neurons. Neurons are essential because they’re the cells responsible for communication and the transmission of information in the brain.
In the brain of a senior with Alzheimer’s or dementia, there will be disruptions in neural functioning and communication. In addition, these seniors will lose neurons to cell death as their memory disease progresses. This is why seniors with the disease will suffer from mental and physical impairments.
When their cells (neurons) can no longer transmit information to one another, certain regions in the brain will shrink and quit functioning.
By the final stage of Alzheimer’s, there will be little neural communication, and seniors will no longer complete daily tasks alone.
7 things to know about the progression of Alzheimer’s disease
While Alzheimer’s progresses in three general stages, mild (early), moderate (middle), and severe (late), it can be broken down further into seven stages.
The 7 Stages
- The preclinical stage
In this stage, your senior loved one will be independent. There will be no signs of them having the disease at all.
Signs of memory loss or mental impairments will not be noticeable. For example, your senior may forget names or words occasionally, but it will look like normal memory loss that comes with aging.
- Mild physical and mental impairments
There will be more memory loss, difficulty learning new things, and a decline in work quality. Though the disease is progressing and probably noticeable to you, others may not notice.
- Evident memory loss and confusion
You will notice memory loss, confusion, mood changes, and changes in your loved ones emotional responses. If your senior loved one has not seen their physician, now would be the time to.
- Moderate to severe impairments
Your senior will now need more support. If they’ve been living at home, it could be time to consider assisted living. Their ability to live alone safely has come to an end, and they will need assistance with daily tasks and someone to stop them from getting lost.
- Severe symptoms
Along with memory loss and confusion, your senior loved one may experience increased anxiety, stuttering, delusions, hallucinations, and paranoia.
They may also experience a fear of being alone, making a memory care community the perfect choice. If you haven’t transitioned your loved one yet, this would be the time.
- Insufficient physical control
In the final stage of Alzheimer’s, seniors will have a lack of physical control. They will struggle to swallow, walk, and sit. Along with reduced mobility, their speech may only include up to six words.
While researchers are still unsure what causes Alzheimer’s, some things make you more susceptible to developing the disease include:
- Genetics & family history
- Head trauma
- Brain abnormalities
- High blood pressure
- Poor diet
- Not enough sleep
- Lack of physical activity
Knowing these risk factors can help you and your senior loved one choose to live a healthier lifestyle. While you cannot change all risk factors, you and your loved one can change many things, such as your diet and sleep habits.
Signs and symptoms
Though Alzheimer’s is recognized as a memory loss disease, it comes with more symptoms than forgetfulness. Seniors with Alzheimer’s will have trouble with familiar tasks, problem-solving, speech, and writing.
It is also common to see seniors withdraw from family members and friends, have mood and personality changes, and decreased judgment. Still, Alzheimer’s affects more than just a senior’s mental health, as it eventually affects them physically.
With the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, you will see your senior struggle to get dressed, brush their teeth, bathe, and walk.
There is no definitive way to diagnose Alzheimer’s before death, but doctors can rule out other medical conditions through medical examination and testing.
Your senior loved one’s physician may begin by asking them about their medical history and giving them a physical and neurological exam.
If their physician believes Alzheimer’s disease is likely, they may order one or more of the following brain-imaging tests:
- computerized tomography (CT) scan
- magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan
- positron emission tomography (PET) scan
There is no known cure for Alzheimer’s, but medications can reduce the anxiety, depression, agitation, and pain caused by the disease. Antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, and antipsychotics are some of the most commonly prescribed medications for seniors with Alzheimer’s.
Having your senior make lifestyle changes is another treatment method recommended by doctors. Strategies to help your loved one focus on tasks, limit confusion and conflict and stay calm can make a difference in their mood and behavior.
Rehabilitation is one of the most beneficial treatments for Alzheimer’s disease. As a senior ages, they will need mental, physical, and emotional support.
Through an outstanding rehabilitation program like the one offered at The Kensington Sierra Madre, seniors will receive therapeutic services to help their mind, body, and soul.
Therapists here can help seniors improve their mobility, balance, strength and stability, and self-care skills.
In addition, seniors in the later stages of Alzheimer’s can receive assistance with speech, chewing, and swallowing difficulties.
Differences between Alzheimer’s and Dementia
The term dementia is often used when discussing any type of memory loss, whether permanent or temporary.
Those with dementia may develop the disease at any age for many reasons, including a stroke, brain tumor, thyroid issues, vitamin deficiencies, or reaction to a medication.
Though Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia, it is irreversible, and no medication or treatment will cure it. It is also seen in older adults and seniors and not in other stages of life like dementia.
Enhanced memory care
The Kensington Sierra Madre offers two memory care neighborhoods: Connections and Haven. Connections supports residents in the early to middle stages of Alzheimer’s, while Haven supports residents in the middle to late stages.
Our promise at The Kensington Sierra Madre is to love and care for your senior loved one as we do our own. We do this by offering cozy and safe living spaces, support, rehabilitation, and life enrichment activities.
Contact our loving and caring team to learn more about our enhanced memory care neighborhoods and the services we provide for our residents.
To learn more about our exceptional assisted living and memory care at The Kensington Sierra Madre, click below or give us a call today for any questions. We promise to love and care for your family, as we do our own.