Alzheimer's Disease Causes, Stages, and Symptoms (cont.)
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
In this Article
- Alzheimer's disease facts
- What is Alzheimer's disease?
- What's the difference between Alzheimer's disease and dementia?
- Who develops Alzheimer's disease?
- What are the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease?
- Ten warning signs of Alzheimer's disease
- What causes Alzheimer's disease?
- What are risk factors for Alzheimer's disease?
- How is the diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease made?
- What treatment and management options are available for Alzheimer's disease?
- Cholinesterase inhibitors (ChEIs)
- Partial glutamate antagonists
- Non-drug based treatments
- Treatment of psychiatric symptoms
- What is the prognosis for a person with Alzheimer's disease?
- Caring for the caregiver and Alzheimer's disease resources
- Alzheimer's Disease FAQs
- Find a local Geriatrician in your town
What is the prognosis for a person with Alzheimer's disease?
Alzheimer's disease is invariably progressive. Different studies have stated that Alzheimer's disease progresses over two to 25 years with most patients in the eight to 15 year range. Nonetheless, defining when Alzheimer's disease starts, particularly in retrospect, can be very difficult. Patients usually don't die directly from Alzheimer's disease. They die because they have difficulty swallowing or walking and these changes make overwhelming infections, such as pneumonia, much more likely.
Most persons with Alzheimer's disease can remain at home as long as some assistance is provided by others as the disease progresses. Moreover, throughout much of the course of the illness, individuals maintain the capacity for giving and receiving love, sharing warm interpersonal relationships, and participating in a variety of meaningful activities with family and friends.
A person with Alzheimer's disease may no longer be able to do math but still may be able to read a magazine with pleasure. Playing the piano might become too stressful in the face of increasing mistakes, but singing along with others may still be satisfying. The chessboard may have to be put away, but playing tennis may still be enjoyable. Thus, despite the many exasperating moments in the lives of patients with Alzheimer's disease and their families, many opportunities remain for positive interactions. Challenge, frustration, closeness, anger, warmth, sadness, and satisfaction may all be experienced by those who work to help the person with Alzheimer's disease.
The reaction of a patient with Alzheimer's disease to the illness and his or her capacity to cope with it also vary, and may depend on such factors as lifelong personality patterns and the nature and severity of stress in the immediate environment. Depression, severe uneasiness, paranoia, or delusions may accompany or result from the disease, but these conditions can often be improved by appropriate treatments. Although there is no cure for Alzheimer's disease, treatments are available to alleviate many of the symptoms that cause suffering.
Caring for the caregiver and Alzheimer's disease resources
Caring for the caregiver is an essential element of managing the patient with Alzheimer's disease. Caregiving is a distressing experience. On the other hand, caregiver education delays nursing home placement of Alzheimer's disease patients. The 3Rs -
can help caregivers reduce troublesome behaviors and limit the use of medications. The short-term educational programs are well liked by family caregivers and can lead to a modest increase in disease knowledge and greater confidence among caregivers. Educational training for staffs of long-term care facilities can decrease the use of antipsychotics in Alzheimer's disease patients.
Caregivers should be directed to support services, particularly the Alzheimer's Association (1-800-272-3900, www.alz.org/chapter/).
Medically reviewed by Joseph Palermo, DO; American Osteopathic Board Certified Internal Medicine with subspecialty in Geriatric Medicine
Alzheimer's Association. 10 Early Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer's.
UpToDate.Clinical manifestations and diagnosis of Alzheimer disease.
UpToDate. Patient information: Dementia (including Alzheimer disease) (Beyond the Basics).
UpToDate. Treatment of dementia.
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