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What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, it is a physical disease that effects the brain. During the process of the disease, proteins build up forming ‘plaques and tangles’ in nerve cells. The connections between these nerve cells are interrupted and lost, with the brain tissue and nerve cells dying. The chemical that helps to pass messages along the nerves effectively, is then diminished. It is a progressive, life-limiting disease.

The hippocampus is often the first area of the brain affected in Alzheimer disease, this makes the process of making new memories more difficult for the Individual and for the them to learn new information. The retrieval of their memories becomes harder.        

Due to the damage in this area, the individual may repeat words and conversations, forget what they have done earlier in the day, but will be able to tell you about a memory they have from earlier on in their life, even from their childhood.       

The amygdala (a complex structure of cells nestled in the middle of the brain, adjacent to the hippocampus) is usually affected later than the hippocampus, so the individual can usually remember the emotional aspects of a memory even though they do not have the factual memory. This means they may respond to the feelings of the emotional memory of the place, the individual or the situation, which appears to be unrelated to what is occurring, or the place where they are.

As the disease spreads and the lobes start to shrink, damage to other areas of the brain lead to further symptoms.

Alzheimer’s disease usually begins gradually with mild memory loss. The individual may have difficulty recalling recent events or learning new information. Damage to the left hemisphere causes difficulties with semantic memory and language [our general knowledge about objects, facts, individuals and word meanings] the individual may have problems finding the right words.

Damage to the visual recognition system in the temporal lobes, will lead to difficulties recognising objects and familiar faces. The individual may still recognise a familiar individual when they hear them speak as the vision and hearing memory pathways are separate. Their recognition can be increased due to their emotional memory of the individual’s voice and the situation.   

Damage to the right parietal lobe can lead to difficulty climbing or descending stairs, as the individual may have problems with their 3 – dimensions perception of judging distances.     

Damage to the frontal lobes will lead to a decline in their ability to organise, make decisions or make plans. An activity/task with multiple stages will become too complex for them, often leading to a loss of previous independent abilities around everyday living. Abilities learnt and acquired at a younger age may remain, such as singing, dancing and playing a musical instrument.  

As the disease progresses they may develop difficulties with following conversations and concentrating during a task. Confusion over place and time orientation is a common symptom. They may become anxious or irritable, with changeable moods, even becoming withdrawn and depressed.

For some individuals they may have visual or hearing hallucinations and even become delusional, believing things that are not true.

Some individuals will also develop unusual behaviour, these can include excessive walking and restlessness. Their sleep can become disrupted and they can become aggressive. They may become less aware of what is going on around them, which eventually may lead to further ‘out of character’ behaviour. 

As the disease progresses, individuals living with Alzheimer’s can become increasingly dependent on support from family and from visiting or live-in carers.                                    

There are several factors that can increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, including age, hereditary factors, and genetics. About 1% of individuals have specific genetic changes that increase the risk of developing the disease.

While there is no known cure for Alzheimer’s, there are a number of medicines that may be prescribed for Alzheimer’s disease to help temporarily improve some symptoms. The individuals’ Dr will be able to advise the individual &/or their family with regards to any available treatment and make recommendations for support and care with Alzheimer’s home care specialists such as Abicare.

https://youtu.be/BS64I2LHNd8 – interesting short film from the Alzheimer’s UK

Early-onset Alzheimer’s is the term used for individual’s that have had the diagnosis who are under 65yrs if age. This can often difficult to live with, individuals do try to maintain a positive outlook. It’s important to stay active and mentally engaged in daily activities. They should also remember that they are not alone in this experience and should not be afraid to seek support from others. Also, planning for their future needs is important, this can include putting their affairs in order and organising a Power of Attorney (LPA) there are LPA’s for Property and Finance and an LPA for Health and Welfare.

As the disease progresses, the individual living with Alzheimer’s disease may become less interested in talking to others or in hobbies. If these changes become more serious, it’s time to seek professional care. Alzheimer’s disease effects an individual’s memory, thinking, language, judgement and behaviour. It makes it harder to live independently so individuals require more support.

This is where Live-in care makes it possible for an individual with Alzheimer’s to stay in the comfort of their own home while receiving specialist care. As well as everyday tasks, your Abicare live-in Alzheimer’s care package might focus on maintaining the skills and abilities necessary to keep your independence within your home. For More information please speak to our team on 0330 128 9125