Alzheimers Disease Knowing What To Expect
It is important to understand the difference between the general forgetfulness that often accompanies old age and the onset of Alzheimer''s. It is perfectly normal for older people to exhibit forgetfulness and mild forms of some of the other symptoms of Alzheimer''s. This does not in any way mean that they are in the early stages of the onset of Alzheimer''s, or that they will go on to develop a full-blown, extreme case of Alzheimer''s. In addition, many other conditions can cause Alzheimer''s like symptoms. A diagnosis from a professional medical doctor is the only way to be sure.
Stages of Alzheimer’s disease
Alzheimer’s disease slowly robs sufferers of their ability to think and function. The degeneration is a process that exists on a continuum from no signs and symptoms to debilitating impairment. By breaking the process down into stages, patients and their families will be better able to understand where they are and what they can expect, and hopefully, this awareness will help them cope with what lies ahead. An understanding of the Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease also improves the quality of community support and nursing home care.
A variety of methods exist for delineating the Stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Barry Reisberg of New York University is a frequently cited Alzheimer’s disease physician who has developed The Functional Assessment Staging (FAST) scale. Reisberg’s scale consists of 16 stages, which track the loss of everyday abilities that healthy people take for granted, from balancing a checkbook to using the bathroom to smiling at a loved one. The stages begin with an awareness of memory loss and progress to an inability to perform everyday tasks at work and at home, leading eventually to problems with personal hygiene, speech and movement. The decline in abilities tracked by Reisberg resembles a regression through childhood development to a state of almost infantile dependency, being unable to even hold one’s head up. As grim as an awareness of such degeneration might be for caregivers, Reisberg claims that family members can use the scales to plan for daily routines that compensate for their loved ones’ lost abilities while keeping their minds active without frustrating them. Knowing what to expect and what won’t work for patients during the different Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease eliminates some of the guesswork and anxiety of caregiving.
Due to the importance of knowledge about the Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease for caregivers, research is being done on how to improve the dissemination of information about the disease and on how to improve awareness of the availability of social and community support. One researcher is examining the effectiveness of an initiative that uses a support group setting to teach families about Alzheimer’s disease and to make them aware of resources within their communities. Another initiative attempts to connect patients and their families with physicians in their community who are educated not only about the disease but also about sources of community support.
An important type of community support involves keeping Alzheimer’s patients active and connected to their communities despite their diminishing abilities. One unique program allows patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease to teach lessons to children in Montessori schools. Researchers are also developing programs for patients with more advanced Alzheimer’s disease who are in nursing homes. These programs strive to make care giving more personal and tailored to a patient’s needs and abilities. Finally, as wonderful as community programs and initiatives may be, they are only effective if people take advantage of them. Research is being done on which programs are best for people with Alzheimer’s disease and how to encourage caregivers to take advantage of these programs.
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