Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a progressive and degenerative brain disease that gradually destroys memory and thinking abilities, and eventually erodes the ability to even carry out simple daily tasks. The onset of this disease is marked by the rapid build-up of proteins in the brain which develop into structures know as plaques and tangles. These structures disrupt the connections between the nerve cells leading to the death of nerve cells and eventually the loss of brain tissue. It is mostly diagnosed in people over 65 years of age.
In 2015 there were approximately 48 million people worldwide diagnosed with AD, according to WHO. Also as per the study, in India, there are nearly 10 million cases of Alzheimer’s being reported each year.
The onset of AD begins with short-term memory loss, which gradually advances to disorientation, problems with language, mood swings, loss of motivation, inability to recognize known things or people, and several other behavioral issues. With body functionality on a rapid decline, there is a serious deterioration in the quality of life of the patient, ultimately leading to death. The average life expectancy preceding the diagnosis of AD is about three to nine years, though the pace of progression of the disease may vary.
There are three major stages of AD, namely mild, moderate, and severe, with each stage having its own set of symptoms.
The early stage of AD generally lasts from 2 to 4 years. The early symptoms include:
- Lack of energy or motivation to perform daily activities
- Difficulty in putting thoughts into words
- Frequent mood swings
- Mild coordination problems
- Trouble with driving
These symptoms also coincide with the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, stress, and depression, making it extremely difficult to diagnose in this stage.
With the onset of this stage, the patient’s memory deteriorates on a faster scale thus interfering with his day-to-day activities. They even tend to forget important details about their life. This stage generally persists from 2 to 10 years before developing into severe AD.
The major symptoms of this stage include:
- Rambling speech
- Trouble planning or solving problems
- Confusion regarding time and place. Patients tend to forget even the familiar places.
Patients suffering from this stage of AD usually become more depressed owing to the rapid degeneration of memory.
The late AD stage is the most severe and lasts for 1 to 3 years. During this stage, patients generally can’t cope up with the day-to-day difficulties and depend on a caretaker for most of the activities. The protein structures become very prominent in the brain leading to the death of the majority of the brain cells.
The symptoms of this stage include:
- Repeated hallucinations
- Difficulty in processing information
- Dilemma about past and present
- Severe memory loss
Dealing with Alzheimer’s is physically, mentally and emotionally taxing for both the patient and family members. Always try to be caring for your loved ones suffering from AD. All they need in their moment of despair is love and care. They may not always remember but their heart never forgets!