Frequently Asked Questions
What is Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s is the most common form of Dementia. It is named after Dr. Alois Alzheimer, who in 1906 noticed changes in the brain tissue of a woman who had died of an unusual mental illness. He found abnormal clumps (now called amyloid plaques) and tangled bundles of fibers (now called neurofibrillary tangles). Today these plaques and tangles in the brain are considered hallmarks of Alzheimer’s thinking, memory and behavior challenges.
How long may a person live with this disease?
How quickly the individual moves through the 3 stages of Alzheimer’s varies. On average individuals live from 4 to 8 years after they are diagnosed although the disease can last for as long as 20 years.
Stages of Alzheimer’s
- Mild Alzheimer’s disease (early-stage)
In the early stage of Alzheimer’s a person may function independently however he or she may be having memory lapses, such as forgetting names, familiar words or the location of everyday objects.
- Moderate Alzheimer’s disease (middle-stage)
Moderate Alzheimer’s is typically the longest stage and can last for several years. Common symptoms include but are not limited to the person confusing words and/or easily becoming frustrated or angry. Personality and behavioral changes occur as well as changes in sleep patterns such as sleeping during the day and becoming restless at night. These may also include changes in hygiene, bowel and bladder movements.
- Severe Alzheimer’s disease (late-stage)
In the final stage of this disease individuals are unresponsive to their environment. Being unable to walk and sit up as well as incontinence of bowel and bladder are common symptoms. As the disease progresses the individual becomes bedridden and loses the ability to swallow. They are also unable to communicate discomfort and pain so at this stage require around the clock care.
10 Early Signs & Symptoms
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life
- Challenges in planning or solving problems
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks
- Confusion with time or place
- Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
- New problems with words in speaking or writing
- Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
- Decreased or poor judgement
- Withdrawal from work or social activities
- Changes in mood and personality
This list has been adapted from the Alzheimer’s Association so for more information please visit www.alz.org
Importance of early diagnosis
An early diagnosis helps patients and their families plan for the future. It gives them time to discuss care options while the patient can still take part in making decisions. Early diagnosis also offers an opportunity to maximize the benefits of available medication treatments. Although current medications cannot cure Alzheimer’s or stop it from progressing, they may help lessen symptoms such as memory loss and confusion for a limited time.
Preparing for your doctor’s visit
- A list of specific symptoms is important. When did they begin? How often do they occur?
- Inform your physician of current and past medical problems as well as if other family members had illnesses that caused memory problems.
- Bring your current prescriptions as well as any over the counter medications including vitamins, aspirin, allergy medication, etc to the visit.
There are FDA approved medications for each stage of the disease. Speak with your physician about medication treatment options.
- The Alzheimer’s Association
- The Alzheimer’s Association – Western and Central Washington State Chapter
- Family Caregiver Support Program
- Lewis-Mason-Thurston Area Agency on Aging
- Senior Action Network
For more information on Alzheimer’s caregiver support groups in the South Sound please contact the Family Caregiver Support Program at 360- 664-3162 ext. 106.