According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 5.3 million Americans are affected by Alzheimer’s disease. Despite its unfortunately high prevalence, very few gain a full understanding of the disease until it hits close to home. At the time of diagnosis, individuals and their families may be unaware of the wide range of symptoms and how Alzheimer’s disease will impact their daily lives.
“The first step any family should take after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis is to learn as much as they possibly can about the disease,” advises Nancy Clanton, Community Relations Director at Tuscan Gardens® of Venetia Bay in Venice, FL. “Alzheimer’s involves so much more than the memory loss generally associated with it. Families need to be prepared for the behavioral changes, loss of day-to-day abilities and cognitive decline that occur as the disease progresses.
“The more you know about your loved one’s Alzheimer’s disease, the better care you’ll be able to give in order to help them live as full a life as possible. Alzheimer’s is in no way an easy journey for families to take, but fortunately, there are multitudes of resources available today to help you at every step of the way.”
Alzheimer’s Disease Defined
Although the two terms are often used interchangeably, Alzheimer’s and dementia are not exactly the same. Dementia is the general term used to describe a decline in mental ability that’s severe enough to interfere with daily life. The experts at the Alzheimer’s Association define Alzheimer’s as “a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior.” Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia.
Scientists have yet to determine the precise cause of this disease, although several risk factors, such as age, genetics and head injuries, have been confirmed. We know that the disease causes damage to the nerve cells in the areas of the brain responsible for performing tasks involved with memory and thinking. Currently, the biggest suspect for the cause of this damage is the buildup of specific proteins both inside the brain’s nerve cells and in the spaces between them.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, meaning that it gets worse as time goes on. At first, the effects of the disease may be barely noticeable, but symptoms will gradually appear and worsen over a period of four to twenty years, depending on other health factors.
What to Expect Throughout the Disease Process
If you or a loved one have been recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, it’s important to know what to expect so you can prepare for the future. The symptoms of the disease can appear differently in each individual, however, everyone experiences the same general decline in cognitive abilities.
Experts have categorized the symptoms of Alzheimer’s into three general stages: early-stage, mid-stage and late-stage. In the early stages, most individuals experience few symptoms and can still function normally and independently, carrying out daily tasks at home and at work despite noticing a few lapses in memory.
Mid-stage Alzheimer’s is usually the longest period of the disease, lasting up to several years. During this stage, symptoms such as memory loss and trouble communicating are noticeable to others and can make it difficult for the person to carry out familiar tasks. Common symptoms during this stage include:
- Forgetfulness of new or familiar information, such as details about one’s own history
- Feeling withdrawn or moody, especially in the midst of social situations or when they are attempting a task that is mentally challenging
- Confusion about what day it is or where they are
- Changes in sleep patterns, such as napping frequently during the day and becoming restless in the evening and during the night
- Increased risk of wandering away or becoming lost
- Personality or behavioral changes, which could include inappropriate speech or behavior, suspiciousness and delusions or compulsive, repetitive actions such as hand-wringing
A person is considered to be in late-stage Alzheimer’s whenever they are no longer able to respond to their environment. The damage to the brain becomes so severe that individuals can no longer carry on a conversation or, eventually, control their movements. They may still be able to speak, but coherent communication is extremely difficult. At this stage, individuals will need around-the-clock care in order to carry out daily activities such as dressing, bathing, going to the bathroom and eating. This is the point at which loved ones usually benefit from professional assistance either in the home or at a community dedicated to memory care.
Maintaining Dignity Throughout the Disease
“The big picture of a loved one’s Alzheimer’s is not what any family would choose to look at,” says Clanton, “But the good news is that memory care experts know enough about the disease to help those suffering continue to live life comfortably and with a sense of purpose and dignity. There are resources available to help families provide great care for their loved ones, as well as communities, such as Tuscan Gardens of Venetia Bay, that have been designed to give those with Alzheimer’s and their families the care, support and peace of mind they need during this difficult time.
“Until there’s a cure, all of us at Tuscan Gardens are dedicated to providing care and dignified lifestyles to seniors with memory loss and guidance for their family members. Despite the challenges that Alzheimer’s brings, it’s important to remember that your loved one still has time left to live, and live well.”
The Art of Living
At Tuscan Gardens® of Venetia Bay, we’ve mastered the art of living. We’ve perfected the balance of personalized support and an uplifting lifestyle, helping our residents experience independence, joy and meaning every day.
Offering supportive independent living, assisted living and memory care services for families in Venice, Florida, Tuscan Gardens of Venetia Bay was founded with one simple, yet profound goal – to create a community worthy of our parents. In all we do, we are guided by the principles of family, culture and engagement, working to represent the remarkable way of life our families deserve.
Luxury, intimacy, opportunity, passion and beauty combine to create what the Italians call sprezzatura – a culture of effortless elegance. The essence of our community is made up not only of mere aesthetics, but an artfully designed lifestyle to bring out the best of what each day has to offer. From dedicated care that respects residents’ individuality and dignity to a lifestyle that nurtures their love of life, Tuscan Gardens was built to be more than just a residence, but a place to call home.