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Alzheimer’s Disease: Symptoms, Causes and Care Options

Alzheimer's disease is a common cause of dementia, characterised by a decline in brain functioning and memory loss. While there is no cure for Alzheimer's, proactive support, compassion, and understanding can improve the quality of life for individuals. At Unique Community Services, we provide specialist care at home, offering reassurance and peace of mind for people living with Alzheimer's disease and their families.

What Is Alzheimer’s?

Named after German psychiatrist Alois Alzheimer, this brain condition is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for 60-80% of dementia cases. Alzheimer’s disease encompasses memory loss and cognitive decline that affect the person’s ability to manage daily life. As the condition progresses, the person slowly loses their memory, thinking skills, and ability to carry out essential daily tasks.

Ageing is the greatest known risk factor for Alzheimer’s, especially after 65. However, while memory loss is common among older people, developing Alzheimer’s is not a typical part of the ageing process. When this condition affects individuals below 65, it is referred to as younger-onset or early-onset Alzheimer’s.

As a progressive condition, Alzheimer’s worsens over time, with its symptoms gradually becoming more challenging to manage. In the early stages, Alzheimer’s causes mild cognitive impairment and memory problems, whereas people with late-stage Alzheimer’s disease lose their ability to carry out basic tasks in their home environment and experience delusions. On average, a person with Alzheimer’s is likely to live around 8-10 years after the diagnosis, but some individuals can live as long as 20 years.

Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s

Understanding Alzheimer’s symptoms is the first step towards fostering a dignified care journey for your loved one. Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive brain disorder that gradually impacts several areas of brain functioning. The first signs of Alzheimer’s typically include minor memory loss.

For example, your older family member may start forgetting names, places, and recent conversations. As time passes, Alzheimer’s disease causes various other symptoms that impact the person’s ability to manage social interaction and everyday tasks.

Memory Loss

The memory loss linked to Alzheimer’s disease is progressive. As brain changes become more drastic, dementia affects the person’s ability to operate safely in their environment.

Individuals with Alzheimer’s disease may experience the following memory challenges:

  • Forgetting conversations, events, places, and appointments
  • Getting lost in familiar places
  • Repeating the same question or statement over and over
  • Misplacing items
  • Trouble finding the right words for certain objects, expressing their thoughts and feelings, and carrying on conversations
  • Forgetting the names of everyday objects and family members (in the latest stages)

Thinking and Reasoning

Dementia linked to Alzheimer’s disease leads to impacted thinking and concentration, especially regarding numbers and other abstract concepts. This condition makes it hard for the person to perform multiple tasks at the same time. People with Alzheimer’s may struggle to pay their bills on time, manage finances, and balance expenses.

In the late stage of this condition, the individual eventually fails to recognise numbers and manage the activities above.

Decisions and Judgement

Alzheimer’s disease significantly affects the person’s decision-making skills and ability to judge everyday situations sensibly. For example, they may dress inadequately for the current type of weather or make inappropriate choices in social settings. Your loved one may also fear mirrors because they misidentify their reflection as another person in the room.

As the individual reaches the later stages of Alzheimer’s, it will become harder for them to manage daily living. To ensure their safety, they may require regular assistance with everyday activities.

Changes in Personality and Behaviour

Alzheimer’s disease causes a wide range of behavioural and personality changes. An individual with dementia can easily get anxious, upset, or angry to the point of physical aggression towards family members.

People with Alzheimer’s may also experience paranoia, delusions, and hallucinations. Therefore, they may imagine things that aren’t there or believe others are hiding things or trying to hurt them. In addition to that, some individuals with dementia may wander away from home due to confusion.

Furthermore, a person with Alzheimer’s disease may experience confusion or frustration in response to loud noises from the TV, radio, or many people around them talking at the same time.

Proactive support and compassion tailored to the individual ensure their safety and well-being, which is why at Unique Community Services, we provide person-centred care for individuals in the comfort of their own homes.

What Causes Alzheimer’s?

Research has shown that Alzheimer’s disease is caused by the atypical build-up of two types of proteins in and around the person’s brain cells: beta-amyloid and tau proteins.

Deposits of the beta-amyloid protein build plaques around the affected person’s brain cells, whereas tau proteins form tangles within them. The formation of amyloid plaques and tau tangles usually begins several years before the initial symptoms appear, leading to a predictable pattern or neuron loss.

As the condition spreads to other regions of the brain, previously functional neurons lose connections to each other and eventually die. People with Alzheimer’s have deficient levels of a neurotransmitter chemical called acetylcholine. In the later stages of Alzheimer’s disease, different areas of the person’s brain may shrink significantly.

Various risk factors increase the likelihood of developing dementia related to Alzheimer’s disease, including the following:

  • Genetic inheritance
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Age
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Down syndrome
  • Diabetes
  • Stroke
  • Depression

Is Alzheimer’s Hereditary?

Not all people with Alzheimer’s have a family history of the condition. However, clinical trial experts have concluded that individuals who have a parent or sibling with Alzheimer’s are at a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Research shows that certain changes in three genes lead to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease in someone who inherits them.

Behaviours That Challenge and Alzheimer’s

For many individuals and their caregivers, behavioural changes are the most challenging part of living with Alzheimer’s disease. 

The first symptoms of early-stage Alzheimer’s disease include mild forms of behaviours that challenge, such as irritability.

Middle and late-stage Alzheimer’s disease cause persistent emotional distress. Many individuals with dementia experience paranoia, delusions, and hallucinations. Dementia symptoms usually worsen in the evening, causing sleep issues and sundowning.

In the later stages of the condition, people with Alzheimer’s experience more severe dementia symptoms. Their anxiety and agitation may escalate into verbal or physical outbursts of aggression.

Identifying the potential triggers of these behaviours is essential to supporting a person living with Alzheimer’s disease. Changes in the person’s schedule or surroundings can be particularly stressful for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, increasing their sense of anxiety and confusion. Therefore, they are more likely to exhibit behaviours that challenge after hospitalisation, admission to a nursing home, or changes in caregiver arrangements.

Treatment Options

Although there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, experts are actively studying new treatments to manage dementia symptoms. Apart from medication, individuals with dementia can benefit from home support and social care adapted to their needs. Caregivers can help their loved ones by establishing routines and avoiding tasks requiring strong memory skills.

Routine, safety, and comfort should be central to dementia care. People with Alzheimer’s disease need to have their medicines in a secure location and their essential valuables (such as wallets, keys, and mobile phones) in the same place. Daily schedules, calendars, and checklists can help track their everyday activities, especially when it comes to administering medication. You should also make sure that your loved one with Alzheimer’s wears a medical alert bracelet and carries an ID at all times.

Late-stage dementia symptoms surrounding the individual’s end of life are the most challenging due to the unpredictability of the Alzheimer’s disease process. Palliative or hospice care experts can provide professional support for individuals and their loved ones. End-of-life care teams ensure that individual spends their last days in a comfortable, respectful, and dignified environment.

Alzheimer Home Care

Alzheimer’s home care services include various forms of professional support provided in the person’s own home rather than a hospital or a residential home. This type of dementia care allows people to stay in their familiar surroundings and provides reassurance for primary caregivers.

Dementia home care involves the following services:

  • Personal care – assistance with everyday activities like eating, toileting, dressing, showering, and grooming
  • Homemaker services – help with cooking meals, cleaning the house, doing the laundry, and shopping
  • Companion services – supervision, assistance with recreational activities, and emotional support
  • Skilled care – professional assistance with physical therapy, injections, wound care, catheter or stoma care, and tending to any other medical needs in coordination with licensed specialists

Benefits of Home Care for Individuals with Alzheimer’s

Unlike residential care, at-home services allow individuals with Alzheimer’s disease to keep their tenancy and stay close to their loved ones. The familiar atmosphere enables people with Alzheimer’s disease to retain meaningful memories and maintain their independence.

Clinicians in this sector provide a safe environment for the people they serve, which decreases the necessity of hospital admissions. Furthermore, Alzheimer’s home care includes meaningful activities that decrease the progression rate of the person’s symptoms.

Alzheimer’s Care with Unique Community Services

At Unique Community Services, providing humanised support to people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease is our lifelong mission. We aim to help individuals with Alzheimer’s disease live as independently as possible and integrate into their local community. For that purpose, our trained clinicians deliver high-standard, CQC-regulated Alzheimer’s care to the people we serve in their own homes, close to their families.

We understand the life-changing impact of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis and the overwhelming challenges for primary caregivers. Therefore, our expert clinicians offer tailored home care services and provide peace of mind for people with Alzheimer’s and their loved ones. Our trained clinicians at Unique Community Services follow personalised support plans to assist people in their own homes. We will always prioritise your loved one’s needs, boundaries, and preferences.

If you are looking for an Alzheimer’s home care provider, Unique Community Services is the right place for you. We currently offer tailored support services for individuals in Bristol and Manchester, and surrounding areas.

Contact us now, and we will outline an individualised care plan catering to your needs.

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Nina

An enthusiastic SEO Content Writer with experience in covering miscellaneous topics. She is passionate about mental health awareness, accommodation of people with complex needs, and the general advancement of human rights.

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