June is Brain Awareness Month and The Alzheimer’s Association’s The Longest Day, and November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. Alzheimer’s Disease causes loss of memory and severe cognitive illness. Most people aren’t aware that they have the disease. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, worldwide, 47 million people are living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
The Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease
There are four stages of Alzheimer’s Disease:
The first symptoms are often mistaken for aging or stress. Testing can reveal mild cognitive trouble for up to eight years before an actual diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease. The biggest change is memory loss, which involves short-term memory loss and an inability to learn new information. Apathy can be observed at this stage and remains the most prevalent symptom throughout the course of the disease.
The increasing impairment of learning and memory eventually leads to a definitive diagnosis. In a small portion of individuals living with Alzheimer’s Disease, problems with language, executive functions, perception and movements are more prominent than memory problems. Older memories of the person’s life, facts learned, and implicit memory (the body’s memory on how to do things, like using a fork to eat) are affected to a lesser degree than new facts or memories.
This stage features a limited vocabulary and decreased word fluency. The person is capable of communicating basic ideas. Motor tasks such as writing, drawing, dressing or movement coordination may be present but are unnoticed. As the disease progresses, people living with Alzheimer’s can continue to do things on their own, but they may need assistance with the most cognitively demanding activities.
In this stage, deterioration hinders independence with subjects unable to perform the most common activities of daily living. Speech, reading, and writing skills are progressively lost. Motor skills decrease, so the risk of falling increases. Long-term memory, which previously was available, becomes impaired, and the person may fail to recognize close relatives.
Drastic behavioral changes are common, including wandering, irritability, crying, outbursts of aggression and resistance to caregiving. Victims can also have trouble controlling their bladder. These symptoms can create stress for caregivers. The stress can be reduced by moving the individual from home care to a long-term care facility.
During the last stage, the person is completely dependent upon caregivers. Language is reduced to simple phrases and words, which leads to complete speech loss. Despite this, people can understand emotional signals.
Aggressiveness can still be present, but extreme apathy and exhaustion are very common. In this stage, people are often confined to their bed and lose the ability to feed themselves. Alzheimer’s Disease is terminal, but pneumonia or other external factors are usually the cause of death.
Support Alzheimer’s Awareness Month
BrightStar Care eagerly supports the Alzheimer’s Association in its organization of The Longest Day in June and Alzheimer’s Awareness Month in November. Here are some ways you can show support and honor those living with Alzheimer’s.
Participate in the Longest Day
June 20 marks the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. In time with this, The Longest Day is a unique fundraising activity to honor those living with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers, for whom every day is long and hard. Not simply a run or walk, the Longest Day invites participants to spend the day doing something they love, whether that’s kayaking, biking, or dancing.
People can also foster Alzheimer’s awareness on the Longest Day or during Alzheimer’s Awareness Month by “going purple,” the color of the Alzheimer’s Association. A few ideas to get involved: wear purple, change light bulbs, or write #ENDALZ on your windows in washable purple window chalk. However you participate, make sure to share your pictures on social media and use the hashtag #ENDALZ.
Become an Advocate
Anyone can sign up at the Alzheimer’s Association website to join their network of Alzheimer’s advocates. Advocates receive regular emails with ways to help influence national policy and create widespread awareness—everything from joining support groups to writing letters to congress to serving on advisory boards.Take Care of Yourself
Perhaps one of the simplest, but most profound ways to honor Alzheimer’s sufferers is to live a healthy lifestyle. Though there’s no known way to definitely prevent Alzheimer’s, research shows that following a healthy diet and exercise plan, keeping social engagements, and fueling your mind with ongoing education and stimulating activities may all slow cognitive decline.