By: Kelsey Davis
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, over 5.7 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s. This disease not only affects the patients, but also the caregivers. 16.1 million Americans provide unpaid support to Alzheimer’s patients – estimated at a value of 18.4 billion dollars. Did you know September is World Alzheimer’s Month? This international campaign was created to raise awareness and help eliminate the stigma of this disease. You can play your part by understanding Alzheimer’s basics, stages, symptoms, and more.
What is Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia. Alzheimer’s may be common among seniors, but is not a normal part of aging. Alzheimer’s main demographic is seniors age 65+, but people younger than 65 can have early-onset Alzheimer’s as well. This disease acts slowly and with time destroys memory and thinking skills.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, two abnormal structures, called plaques and tangles, are prime suspects in this disease. Plaques are deposits of protein that develop in the spaces between nerve cells and tangles are proteins that twist and build inside of cells. Scientists are unsure of the role between Alzheimer’s, tangles, and plaques, but have noticed patterns in the brain. They believe that communication is blocked between nerve cells due to the growth of these structures. Scientists are continuing to research this disease and other forms of dementia in hopes of discovering new treatments.
There are various signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s and some go hand in hand with aging. In order to evaluate you or a loved one’s health status, you need to pay close attention to how these symptoms are displayed and their severity.
- Memory Loss
This is the most common symptom of Alzheimer’s. Minor memory loss may be common among seniors, but be aware of a significant downward shift. Do they forget major events? Do they ask the same question repeatedly?
- Trouble with Daily Tasks
Struggling to complete simple daily tasks is a symptom of Alzheimer’s. Do they have issues following a recipe? Is it hard for them to focus on tasks? Can they maintain their checkbook and bills?
- Confusion with Places, Dates, and People
It’s understandable to confuse dates and times occasionally. However, if this occurs often it may be a common sign of Alzheimer’s.
- Changes in Vision
As people age, it’s natural for our vision to worsen. It is important to take notice if there is a significant decline in you or a loved one’s vision. Visit the eye doctor regularly for check-ups!
- Losing Items
We all lose our keys here or there, it happens! But have you ever put them in a weird place? The refrigerator? The kitchen cabinets? Are you blaming others for taking your items? If you are losing items and finding them in strange places or blaming others, this can be an early symptom of Alzheimer’s.
7 Stages of Alzheimer’s
There are seven stages of Alzheimer’s. By understanding these stages you can better prepare for the future and any help you or a loved one may need. Please note, patients may not always fall into a specific category, but this is the general trend of someone who has Alzheimer’s.
- Stage 1: No Impairment
During this stage, you will be unable to notice symptoms. Only a PET scan can reveal signs of Alzheimer’s.
- Stage 2: Very Mild Decline
You or loved one may begin to lose objects or forget a word or two. This stage does not interfere with the ability to live independently. Many of these symptoms can resemble natural changes in aging.
- Stage 3: Mild Decline
In this stage, thinking and reasoning skills will decrease. You or a loved one may struggle to remember something recently discussed, ask the same questions, and unable to remember new names.
- Stage 4: Moderate Decline
In this stage, the previous issues in Stage 3 worsen and more severe symptoms develop. You or a loved one may forget personal details or be unable to remember the date or month.
- Stage 5: Moderately Severe Decline
Forgetting where you are or failure to remember the time is common in this stage. It is also likely to forget addresses, phone numbers, birthdays, etc.
- Stage 6: Severe Decline
In this stage, names and roles are often forgotten. It is not uncommon for the patient to forget you are their mother or sister, etc. Delusions are common, for example, thinking they need to go to work when in reality they do not have a job.
- Stage 7: Very Severe Decline
Eating, walking, and sitting up becomes a challenge in this final stage. The patient needs assistance with eating and drinking, as their body no longer sends them the appropriate signals for hunger and thirst.
Importance of Coverage
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States. There is no cure for this disease, but early treatment can help manage symptoms. Regular check-ups and conversations with a doctor can help catch early signs of Alzheimer’s. Make sure you have appropriate Medicare coverage to ensure you are given the medical attention you need and deserve.
Our partners at Medicare Plan Finder can answer any coverage questions you may have. Complete this form or call them directly at 833-438-3676 to arrange a no-obligation appointment with a certified agent.