Alzheimer’s disease, a common type of dementia refers to the progressive mental deterioration, which can happen during middle or old age as a result of degeneration of the brain. The symptoms usually develop over time and become serious enough to hamper daily activities.
Doctors believe that for most people, the condition can happen due to a combination of environmental, lifestyle and genetic factors that has an effect on the brain. Alzheimer’s disease can damage and kill the brain cells. As the disease progresses, it can lead to significant shrinkage of the brain.
While Alzheimer’s disease is generally known to affect older adults, it can also affect people who are in their 30s or 40s. When the condition affects someone below the age of 65 years, it is referred to as early-onset Alzheimer’s condition.
Today, millions of people around the world are afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease. Currently, it is the seventh leading cause of death. Many people with Alzheimer’s and their loved ones find behavioural symptoms to be the most distressing effects of the disease. Understanding the behavior changes can enable the caregivers to deal with the patients with understanding and compassion.
Sometimes it can be difficult to differentiate between Alzheimer’s disease and the normal signs and symptoms of aging. Here are some common Alzheimer’s behaviour symptoms.
Memory-Loss – Persistent forgetfulness is one of the first major symptoms of the disease that can progress from temporary memory lapses to facing trouble with complex concepts such as remembering words and memories.
Physical or verbal aggression – Angry outbursts, irritation and mood swings are quite common in patients afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease. It is essential for caregivers to remember that it is the disease that is triggering the behaviours and the patient is not being aggressive deliberately. Also, it is important to identify if there is any immediate cause for such behaviour and take steps to correct it.
Anxiety – Alzheimer’s can make it difficult for patients to process new information resulting in anxiety, which is often revealed in restlessness. It can be helpful to identify the cause of anxiety and divert the attention of the patient and try to soothe him or her.
Delusions and hallucinations – Alzheimer patients may exhibit behaviour that is far removed from reality. They may perceive things or beliefs that are not there. While simple distractions can help to bring the patient to the present, severe delusions must be brought to the attention of the doctors as soon as possible.
Sleep issues – Night time restlessness, also referred to as sun downing is one of the common symptoms of Alzheimer’s. This can further aggravate behavioural issues. It can help to have a healthy diet during the day, engage in some recommended activities and avoid day-time napping to reduce night-time over activity.
Wandering – Individuals suffering from the condition may often be found pacing as a result of getting lost or in an attempt to find someone or something or due to being in a new place. It can also be due to boredom or because he or she needs to go to the toilet.
Repetitive speech – Sometimes patients may say the same things over and again either as a result of memory loss or due to worry. It can help to hear them with patience and reassure them that all is okay.
Depression – People suffering from Alzheimer’s may lose interest in life and may feel unmotivated. They can also suffer from crying bouts, fatigue and weight loss.
Alzheimer’s disease is non-reversible and with time, the symptoms can become more severe. It can lead a person to feel disoriented and cause significant personality changes. There may be a decline in cognitive abilities as a result of which language and everyday skills can suffer. The rate at which the symptoms of the condition develop varies from one person to another.
Alzheimer’s disease happens in different stages.
In the initial period, patients may experience anxiety, depression or irritability.
In the later stages, several other symptoms may surface including agitation, sleep disturbances, restlessness, delusions, and hallucinations. People suffering from the condition may drop their normal routines, social activities and preferences. They may have difficulty in organizing things which were once routine. Some more behaviour changes such as becoming passive and resistance to change can also be evident. Some patients may also become obstinate, insensitive, stubborn, or threatening.
Anyone exhibiting the above mentioned behavioural symptoms must receive immediate medical evaluation. The treatment of the condition would depend on a careful diagnosis of the condition, finding out the possible causes of the same and checking the symptoms the person is exhibiting.
The doctor will examine the medical history of the person and conduct certain cognitive tests of mental skills. He or she may also examine your urine, spinal fluid and blood. The doctor may also ask for MRI and CT scans to check the extent of brain tissue damage. With the right treatment, the symptoms can be significantly reduced or stabilized.
Although experts say that there is no way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, keeping the body and mind healthy, getting regular exercise, eating right, quitting smoking and drinking and taking steps to reduce stress can be helpful. There is some new research too, that provides hope that effective treatments for the condition may soon be available.
Some evidence has proved that detecting the disease in the initial stages can help to treat the condition and delay its progression significantly. Therefore, if you notice any of the symptoms, it is best to consult a doctor as soon as possible.