Did you know that September is World Alzheimer’s Month? In Brazil and around the world, September 21st is marked on the calendar to raise awareness about the disease, encouraging people to seek information and support for those who suffer or live with someone who has this condition.
Have you ever heard, for example, that there are phases of Alzheimer’s and each of them can present different manifestations? To understand more about this subject, the dados pela vida team had a chat with geriatrician Simone de Paula Pessoa Lima, who explains the main symptoms of Alzheimer’s at each stage. Check out!
What is Alzheimer’s disease?
According to data from the Ministry of Healthit is estimated that 1.2 million people live with some type of dementia and 100,000 new cases are diagnosed each year.
Popularly known as Alzheimer’s disease, it is a degenerative disease that, unfortunately, still has no cure. For the most part, Alzheimer’s affects people over 65 years of age and interferes in several areas of life, not only memory, but also language, personality, mood and even locomotion, in its most advanced stages.
Stages of Alzheimer’s: how to differentiate them?
Dr. Simone explains that there is a division and within it, a subdivision of the different stages of the disease. “There are several ways to classify a disease and its stages. The best-known model is the one proposed by the Alzheimer’s Association (Alzheimer’s Association), which divides the disease into three phases: mild, moderate and severe. Each of these phases can be subdivided into different stages, and the progression of the disease can vary greatly from person to person, and it is not guaranteed that all individuals will go through them all at the same time or in the same way.”
Mild stage manifestations
There is a phase of the disease in which It is not possible to diagnose Alzheimer’s: the asymptomatic phase. “We also call this phase pre-clinical: the patient has the disease, but does not yet have dementia”, reports Dr. Simone.
Posteriorly, small changes begin in the patient’s behavior, as explained by the geriatrician. “In the early stage of Alzheimer’s, Symptoms can be subtle and are often mistaken for normal aging or stress problems,” says Simone. Some examples are: forgetting the name of a relative or friend, or forgetting where you kept an important object.
At this stage, mild cognitive decline occurs: here the evidence becomes more noticeable as the disease progresses. “Between the Alzheimer’s symptoms, we can mention memory problems, such as forgetting recent events, appointments or conversations; needing help from friends and family to remember simple information that was previously remembered normally; difficulties expressing oneself or finding words; placing objects in the wrong places; difficulty performing routine, familiar tasks, such as cooking a meal or operating a device; loss of track of time, days of the week or even the year”, he explains.
The consequences of these manifestations, which can pose risks to the patient, are also beginning to appear. “Disorientation about location are also symptoms of the initial stage; make dubious decisions regarding financial life; desire not to participate in activities that previously brought pleasure due to being insecure about one’s own memory; in addition to changes in mood and personality, becoming more easily irritated or becoming more withdrawn or agitated, for example”, informs the geriatrician.
Manifestations of the moderate stage
Moderate cognitive decline: At this point in the disease, symptoms that have already appeared before become even more serious. “Patients experience a huge loss in the ability to carry out tasks independently”, explains Simone. “During this period, there is more difficulty in communication and expression, causing the Alzheimer’s patient to be unable to find the right words, follow more complex dialogues or become more confused when speaking or answer other people’s questions.”
At this stage of the moderate stage, it is necessary for someone to be present frequently with the patient to help them perform daily tasks. “There may be a worsening of memory of recent and past events. It is also common to forget the names of family members, friends and other important information and even recognize each other”, comments the geriatrician. “Patients in this intermediate phase perform tasks such as dressing, bathing and preparing meals with greater difficulty and there is an increasing need for help to carry out basic activities. Even eating can become a challenge because they often do not recognize food, forget how to eat or lose their appetite. In addition, they may experience sleep disturbances and nighttime agitation.”
Severe stage manifestations
Severe cognitive decline: “The symptoms worsen significantly. The person can losing the ability to communicate verbally or understand speech. There may be loss of bladder and bowel control, difficulty swallowing and limited mobility, leading to the need for complete assistance with all activities.” The patient may also experience delirium at this stage.
In the final stage of dementia, communication is completely limited. The person spends most of their time in bed, depending on their caregiver for all their basic needs.
How to deal with a family member or loved one with Alzheimer’s?
Dealing with a relative or friend with symptoms of Alzheimer’s It can be challenging and very exhausting. If you’re going through this, Simone offers some guidance. “For those caring for the sick, it is common to face a significant increase in care demands, including helping with basic tasks, managing hygiene and administering medications. This leads to constant physical and emotional fatigue, in addition to high levels of stress”, comments the geriatrician.
The feeling of isolation of those who are caring for that person It is common and it can affect overall well-being. “They may have to make difficult decisions about health, financial and legal issues on behalf of the patient. They need emotional support, medical guidance and resources to face the challenges of ongoing care, to try to balance the responsibilities of caring for the patient with taking care of their own lives and personal obligations”, concludes the doctor.
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