By Stacey Boyd, MSN, RN, CDP, Director of Nursing, Welbrook at Bloomington
In 2018, there were 5.7 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Furthermore, Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, which is a broad term that generally is defined as a decline in mental status or ability to perform daily activities. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementias.
Alzheimer’s disease impacts memory, thinking, behavior, and is a progressive disease — meaning it worsens over time.
Stages of Alzheimer’s disease
There are three stages: early-stage, middle-stage, and late-stage.
In the early-stage, an individual may maintain his or her functional independence. This could mean he or she is still able to drive, work, attend social events, and even care for him or herself. In this stage of the disease, some may notice memory lapses, misplaced objects, and sometimes words are forgotten that are used in every day dialogue.
The middle-stage is the longest stage of the disease process. People that are in the middle-stage typically experience forgetfulness of personal history, and can be agitated or withdrawn. They often experience confusion concerning what day it is and where they are. They can lose recognition of when to bathe or groom, or to recognize when to utilize the restroom. In this stage, there is an increased risk for wandering or exploring.
The late-stage is the final stage of the disease process. Those in the late-stage lose the ability to have conversations and the ability to control movement. People in this stage require hands-on assistance with personal care and may be unable to walk or support their own airway.
Risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease
- Age 65 and older
- Family history of Alzheimer’s disease
- Head injury/trauma
- Poor heart health
Signs and symptoms
- Memory loss
- Challenges in planning or problem solving
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks
- Trouble understanding visual images
- Vocabulary/speech difficulty
- Misplacing possessions
- Decreased or poor judgement
- Withdrawal from work or social activities
- Changes in mood
Diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease
A physician may be able to evaluate and determine a diagnosis of dementia, but sometimes it can be difficult to pinpoint it as Alzheimer’s disease. The typical process for diagnosis would include a physical and neurological exam, mental status assessments, blood tests, and brain imaging. Sometimes the primary care physician will work with a neurologist or even a gerontologist to determine the diagnosis.
Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, however there are medications and therapies that can help treat or slow cognitive or behavioral symptoms.
Research suggests that keeping the brain healthy and active can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Some methods to keep the brain healthy are the following:
- Having a healthy, well-balanced diet
- Staying social
- Physical exercise
- Maintain a healthy heart
- Brain exercises and intellectual activities
- Avoid head traumas
- Avoid tobacco and alcohol
Welbrook at Bloomington is a new, state-of-the-art senior living community offering independent/assisted living and memory care. “Living life well” at Welbrook means having the support, care, and compassion to continue a lifestyle with just a change of location. Welbrook at Bloomington is located at 1402 Leslie Drive, Bloomington. For additional information, contact Rochel Yerington, Community Relations Director at 309-603-2500 or visit WelbrookBloomington.com.