Alzheimer’s accounts for about 60-80 percent of dementia cases. It’s a slow disease and spans about 10 to 15 years from diagnosis to death. It’s the most common type of dementia. In addition to Alzheimer’s, there are a variety of other diseases related to dementia. I list a few of them here, but I will concentrate on Alzheimer’s. There is Lewy Body, Multiple Infarct, and other diseases that cause dementia such as ethanol-related and Pick’s.
Alzheimer’s is stageable. There is an early, middle, and late. Some look at these stages as 1-7.
In the early stages of the disease, the patient may not remember simple requests, are disoriented to location, and may not be able to find their way home. That’s why doctors tell patients not to drive. Changes in personality and mood are very common. There is the loss of spontaneity and zest for life. They may be very quick to anger, very quick to deny things, as well as suffer from bad judgment and poor decision-making. They take longer to perform tasks and have problems handling cash and paying bills.
The middle stage is usually the longest stage, and is characterized by increased memory problems. Patients may not recognize family members or friends. They repeat motions and conversations. They become more restless in the later afternoon (also referred to as sun downing). It is suggested that the patient is encouraged to take a nap no longer than 90 minutes after lunch and limit activities the rest of the day. This stage is also characterized by twitching, jerky body motions, disorganized thought processes, mood swigs, and inability to read, write and recognize numbers.
In the late stages of Alzheimer’s, people are unable to recognize themselves. There are suggestions to remove mirrors (bathroom) as the patient may think their reflection is someone else staring at them and then get upset. There is a decrease in self-care and ability to communicate the spoken word. Also, they become orally fixated. This is also the stage where the patient becomes incontinent of both bowel and bladder.
If your doctor has diagnosed Alzheimer’s, please go for a second opinion. People may develop dementia like symptoms for various other reasons.
Once your health care provider diagnoses the disease, it’s important that we accept and surrender to the process. Surrender is not giving up, it means not fighting it. It’s happening. Begin to use your energy to get everything together.
This takes me back to our journey. As I started writing about our journey, I wanted to discuss all the detours and crossroads we traveled. However, I now know that you probably don't care about the past trials. Those are mine and yours may be the same or similar or even more trying. Just thinking about it has been cathartic for me. I mentioned earlier that we must live in the moment and use our personal past experiences in todays present journey. So our journey (mine and Joyce's) will be based on today because each day is a journey in itself.