The term was coined at the beginning of the twentieth century by the psychiatrist Alois Alzheimer. Typical of the disease are a gradual decline in the ability to concentrate and a gradual loss of memory. The more the disease progresses, the more challenging it becomes for those affected to manage their lives alone.
According to a system developed by the Alzheimer's Association, the disease usually progresses in seven stages. Developed by Barry Reisberg, clinical director of New York University School of Medicine's Silberstein Aging and Dementia Research Center. However, the stages of the disease can overlap, so that a clear demarcation can be difficult.
Alzheimer's disease and dementia: Dementia is the generic term for clinical pictures associated with the loss of mental functions such as thinking, memory and orientation. The fact that memory problems occur with increasing age is initially a normal biological aging process, which does not indicate whether a serious illness is actually present. Alzheimer's disease is a special form of dementia. There are also other forms of dementia, such as vascular dementia or Lewy body dementia. Only the doctor can determine whether and which form of dementia is present and recommend a therapy on this basis.
Alzheimer's stage one: No significant impairments
In the first stage, the patient does not yet show any symptoms of dementia .
Alzheimer's stage two: It all starts with memory lapses
Only from the second stage onwards do affected persons show a slightly diminished perceptive faculty. These signs can also be attributed to age-related change.
For example, things are misplaced more often or the person may complain of individual memory lapses. Word-finding disorders are also a typical symptom in this stage of the disease. However, the doctor cannot yet detect any dementia symptoms.
Alzheimer's stage three: Forgetting words
At this stage of the disease, those affected have increasing problems finding their way around. So they find it harder to remember the right word or name. They develop problems performing tasks in social or work settings, or forget content they have just read.
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From Alzheimer's level four, it gets serious
From this stage of the disease, a careful discussion with a physician is recommended. Possible symptoms of progressive dementia are then:
– Forgetting events that occurred shortly in the past – Problems solving arithmetic problems, for example counting backwards in larger numerical steps – Difficulty performing more complex tasks, such as planning a meal invitation – Forgetfulness regarding one's own past
At this stage of dementia, the affected person clearly notices that something is wrong with them and that they are becoming increasingly forgetful. This awareness of one's own mental decline often leads to dejection and social withdrawal in the course of the disease. From the fifth stage of the disease, the disorders increase. Sufferers usually need help in their daily lives. For example, many can no longer remember their own address and suffer from massive orientation problems with regard to time and place. They can no longer independently choose clothing appropriate to the weather.
Also, mental arithmetic now becomes even more difficult, simple tasks can no longer be solved. However, dementia patients at this stage are still able to eat and go to the toilet independently.
Alzheimer stage six: the person becomes a nursing case
The person with Alzheimer's disease now needs extensive help and can no longer live alone. Some sufferers can now:
– No longer perceive recent events correctly – No longer distinguish familiar faces from unfamiliar ones – Need help dressing – Notice changes in sleep patterns – Need help going to the bathroom – Have problems with bladder and bowel control – Have a tendency to wander
It is also common to see a change in the character and demeanor of the patient. Typical personality changes include, for example, a distrust of others or compulsive, repetitive actions such as hand-wringing.
No more interaction in Alzheimer's stage seven
The seventh stage of illness is the sad final stage of this disease: the affected person can no longer communicate to those around him or her. Can no longer carry on a conversation. The ability to smile, hold the head straight or sit upright also disappears. E
Another symptom of progressive dementia at this stage is that the muscles stiffen and swallowing becomes increasingly difficult. The ill person is a severe care case, which overburdens the relatives. Many therefore seek external help with care or choose a nursing home for their relative.
Risk factors for Alzheimer's dementia
Age is the most significant risk factor for Alzheimer's disease. Over the years, protein deposits can form in the brain (plaques), which damage the nerve cells.Changes in thinking, acting, and perceiving are the result.
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In addition to the aging process and genetic factors, cardiovascular diseases also play a role in the development of Alzheimer's, since the brain is supplied with oxygen and important nutrients via the bloodstream. Excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, and obesity also increase the risk of disease.
Alzheimer's dementia usually affect mainly elderly people. There are, however, variants that already manifest themselves in 20-year-olds. The cause is then mutations of the so-called presenilin genes. However, this familial burden occurs extremely rarely.
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Diabetes is also discussed in connection with Alzheimer's disease. Research has shown that a reduced response of the body's cells to insulin is associated with impaired memory performance. Depression, lack of sleep, and severe head injuries are also considered possible risk factors.
– German Homepage of the Alzheimer's Association – Deutsche Alzheimer-Gesellschaft