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 dementia?
- What is Alzheimer's disease?
- Who develops Alzheimer's disease?
- What are the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease?
- Ten warning signs of Alzheimer's disease
- What are the causes Alzheimer's disease?
- What are risk factors for Alzheimer's disease?
- How is the diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease made?
- What is the prognosis of a person with Alzheimer's disease?
- What treatment and management options are available for Alzheimer's disease?
- Cholinesterase inhibitors (ChEIs)
- Partial glutamate antagonists
- Non-medication based treatments
- Treatment of psychiatric symptoms
- Potential and future therapies for Alzheimer's disease
- Caring for the caregiver and Alzheimer's disease resources
- National Institute on Aging home safety for people with Alzheimer's disease
- General safety concerns for persons with Alzheimer's disease
- Is it safe to leave the person with Alzheimer's disease alone?
- Home safety room-by-room
- Home safety behavior-by-behavior
- Special occasions/gatherings/holidays
- Impairment of the senses
- Natural disaster safety
- Who would take care of the person with Alzheimer's disease if something happened to you?
- Additional resources
- Alzheimer's Disease FAQs
- Find a local Geriatrician in your town
Impairment of the Senses
Alzheimer's disease can cause changes in a person's ability to interpret what he or she can see, hear, taste, feel, or smell. The person with Alzheimer's should be evaluated periodically by a physician for any such changes that may be correctable with glasses, dentures, hearing aids, or other devices.
People with Alzheimer's may experience a number of changes in visual abilities. For example, they may lose their ability to comprehend visual images. Although there is nothing physically wrong with their eyes, people with Alzheimer's may no longer be able to interpret accurately what they see because of brain changes. Also, their sense of perception and depth may be altered. These changes can cause safety concerns.
- Create color contrast between floors and walls to help the person see
depth. Floor coverings are less visually confusing if they are a solid color.
- Use dishes and placemats in contrasting colors for easier identification.
- Mark the edges of steps with brightly colored strips of tape to outline
changes in height.
- Place brightly colored signs or simple pictures on important rooms (the
bathroom, for example) for easier identification.
- Be aware that a small pet that blends in with the floor or lies in walkways may be a hazard. The person with Alzheimer's disease may trip over the pet.
A loss of or decrease in smell often accompanies Alzheimer's disease.
- Install smoke detectors and check them frequently. The person with
Alzheimer's disease may not smell smoke or may not associate it with danger.
- Keep refrigerators clear of spoiled foods.
- People with Alzheimer's may experience loss of sensation or may no longer be
able to interpret feelings of heat, cold, or discomfort.
- Adjust water heaters to 120 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid scalding tap water.
Most hot water heaters are set at 150 degrees, which can cause burns.
- Color code separate water faucet handles, with red for hot and blue for
- Place a sign on the oven, coffee maker, toaster, crock-pot, iron, and other
potentially hot appliances that says DO NOT TOUCH or STOP! VERY HOT. The person
with Alzheimer's should not use appliances without supervision. Unplug
appliances when not in use.
- Use a thermometer to tell you if bath water is too hot or too cold.
- Remove furniture or other objects with sharp corners or pad the corners to reduce potential for injury.
People with Alzheimer's may lose taste sensitivity. As their judgment declines, they also may place dangerous or inappropriate things in their mouths.
- Keep all condiments such as salt, sugar, or spices hidden if you see the
person with Alzheimer's using excess amounts. Too much salt, sugar, or spice can
be irritating to the stomach or cause other health problems.
- Remove or lock up medicine cabinet items such as toothpaste, perfume,
lotions, shampoos, rubbing alcohol, and soap, which may look and smell like food
to the person with Alzheimer's.
- Consider a childproof latch on the refrigerator, if necessary.
- Keep the toll-free poison control number (1-800-222-1222) by the telephone.
Keep a bottle of ipecac (vomit-inducing agent) available, but use only with
instructions from poison control or 911.
- Keep pet litter boxes inaccessible to the person with Alzheimer's disease.
Do not store pet food in the refrigerator.
- Learn the Heimlich maneuver or other techniques to use in case of choking.
Check with your local Red Cross chapter for more information and instruction.
- If possible, keep a spare set of dentures. If the person keeps removing dentures, check for correct fit.
People with Alzheimer's disease may have normal hearing, but they may lose their ability to interpret what they hear accurately. This loss may result in confusion or overstimulation.
- Avoid excessive noise in the home such as having the stereo and the TV on
at the same time.
- Be sensitive to the amount of noise outside the home, and close windows or
doors, if necessary.
- Avoid large gatherings of people in the home if the person with Alzheimer's
shows signs of agitation or distress in crowds.
- If the person wears a hearing aid, check the batteries and functioning
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