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Dementia of Alzheimer’s Type: Signs and Symptoms


The world today is faced with many diseases and conditions, some of which have given medical researchers sleepless nights. Among the complicated diseases is Alzheimer’s disease, which is a complication in the brain that leads to memory loss. This paper seeks to analyze dementia that comes about as a result of Alzheimer’s disease. The signs and symptoms of the disease will also be discussed, as well as its stages. Despite spending sleepless nights researching, researchers have not yet come up with a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, and therefore its management is a crucial intervention for patients. Later in the paper, management by caregiving will also be looked at by discussing the role of the family in taking care of patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

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Alzheimer’s disease, commonly abbreviated as AD, is a condition that affects the human brain leading to memory loss and impairment of major mental functions. “AD comes about after the disintegration of brain cells connection thus causing the mental function and memory to decline steadily” (Wayne et al., 2013, p.1). Research done on AD indicates that it has no cure hence management is the sole way of mitigating the effects of the disease. Alzheimer’s disease is known to occur in aged people, particularly those who are over 65 years. The prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease, therefore, increases with age, thus about fifty percent of the population of people above 65 years suffer from AD. However, it is important to note that not all aged people suffer from AD. If not well managed, Alzheimer’s disease leads to dementia, which is “a group of brain disorders that result in the loss of intellectual and social skills” (Wayne et al., 2013, p.1). This paper is therefore an in-depth analysis of dementia that is caused by AD.

Signs of Alzheimer’s disease

The early signs of AD can be confused with age-related disorders or stress disorders. Alzheimer’s disease is known to manifest itself differently in different people. Nevertheless, common signs and symptoms of the disease include the following:

  1. Lack of ability to remember events
  2. Mood swings
  3. Irritability
  4. Confusion
  5. Aggression
  6. Language problems
  7. Memory lapses
  8. Withdrawal
  9. Loss of bodily functions
  10. Poor thinking ability

Stages of Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease is known to occur in seven key steps, which give an indication of how the human brain changes within the course of disease manifestation.

  • Stage 1: No impairment

During this stage, the individual will function normally without showing any signs of memory loss or dementia.

  • Stage 2: Very mild decline in cognition

In this stage, memory lapses start being experienced. An individual easily forgets common and familiar words, places, or names. Nevertheless, no symptoms of dementia are detected.

  • Stage 3: Mild decline in cognition

Here the people close to the affected individual begin noticing the patient’s memory problems. This is evidenced in their character or behavior. Patients may have problems remembering people’s names upon introduction, trouble with planning, misplacing important objects, and having trouble performing routine tasks (Jalbert et al., 2008, p. 16).

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  • Stage 4: Moderate decline in cognition

During this stage, the symptoms of dementia are recognizable and can be easily detected upon medical examination. Patients will forget recent activities and occurrences when in this stage. In worse cases, the patient may not be able to plan for events as well as become very moody and withdrawn.

  • Stage 5: Moderate severe decline in cognition

In this stage, memory lapses are highly noticeable whereby the patients require help in the common day-to-day errands they earlier performed without difficulties. For instance, individuals may not be able to even remember their home addresses or mobile numbers. Arithmetic computations become extremely difficult during this stage. However, the patient is still able to perform the core duties of eating and going to the washrooms.

  • Stage 6: Severe decline in cognition

This is the middle stage of AD, which is characterized by severe memory lapses that make the individual completely forgetful. It is so serious that at times patients forget their own names and have difficulty distinguishing faces that were very familiar to them. There is also a significant change in the sleeping pattern whereby patients tend to spend the day sleeping hence becoming restless during the night. Patients also have problems in controlling their bowels and may need help in routine toileting such as flushing or disposal of waste.

  • Stage 7: Very severe decline in cognition

This is the last and the most serious stage of AD. At this stage victims become uncontrollable and they may fail to recognize their environments. Speech becomes impaired with patients requiring help in most of the personal care activities such as toileting and eating. In severe cases, muscles may become rigid thus resisting movement because of abnormal reflexes.

Risk factors of Alzheimer’s disease

The exact causative factors for AD have not been established but there are claims indicating that the disease could be brought about by the inheritance of some genes. However, these will be manifested shortly before the age of 65. Researchers claim that AD comes about due to a set of complex factors occurring in the brain. Therefore, the common risk factors of AD include age whereby it occurs in old age especially after 65 years, gender whereby women are more prone to AD than men, and family history. People with head injuries are also at risk of suffering from AD as well as exposure to some environmental toxins (Jalbert et al., 2008, p. 19). “Other risk factors include stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure, and high levels of cholesterols among others” (Jalbert et al., 2008, p. 19).

Diagnostic criteria / nursing assessments

Unlike most medical conditions that can be diagnosed using lab tests, the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is quite involving. Diagnosis is achieved by looking at the patients’ history, relatives’ history and observing the patient clinically. To diagnose Alzheimer’s disease, the past and present functioning of the patient ought to be determined for any instances of disorientation. This could include background checks on family history, memory loss and other medical tests. This will also help in distinguishing AD from other types of dementia.

Interventions (pharmacological and non-pharmacological)

It is important to note that there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. However, the disease can be successfully managed to give a patient a normal life. Under pharmacological interventions, the common medications used are acetyl cholinesterase inhibitors such as galantamine, tacrine, donepezil, memantine, and rivastigmine (Becker and Giacobini, 1997, p. 102). Nevertheless, these drugs are of little benefit to the patient hence the need for non-pharmacological interventions. Under non-pharmacological interventions, the doctors focus on dementia rather than Alzheimer’s disease. These interventions are meant to deal with the emotion, cognition, and behavior of the patient and manage them.

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The management of Alzheimer’s disease goes further to incorporate the family members who are required to learn as much as they can about the disease. Family members of the patient are expected to assist in activities that the patient cannot perform on their own as well as encouraging them to take life positively. In addition, caregiving treatment ought to be well managed in order to allow the caregiver time to focus on their own health needs other than spending the whole time with the patient. For instance, modifications could be made to the home environment to increase the safety of the patient thus reducing the burden on the caregiver. This could involve labeling of rooms, food, and items as well as placement of safety locks.

Reference List

Becker, R., and Giacobini, E. (1997). Alzheimer Disease- From Molecular Biology To Therapy (Advances in Alzheimer Disease Therapy). New York: Springer.

Jalbert, J., Daiello, L., and Lapane, K. (2008). Dementia of the Alzheimer Type. Epidemiological Review, 30(1), 15-34.

Wayne, M., White, M., and Smith, M. (2013). Understanding Dementia. Web.

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