Last week we looked at the early symptoms of Alzheimer Dementia – this week we look at the more serious symptoms showing signs that the disease is advancing.
TROUBLE UNDERSTANDING VISUAL IMAGES
When people start having difficulty identifying images or even start having difficulty reading, then this could be another indicator that dementia is advancing.
Now logically, any vision problem should be checked for impaired vision first, there could be a cataract developing. But if that is not the case and the person is having trouble reading or determining colour and contrast, then you should test for Alzheimer’s.
Quite a few people will also have impaired judgment of distances. When that happens it is important that they no longer drive cars or motorbikes. I know that is a drag on the family – but increased care is now essential.
SPEAKING OR WRITING
It is quite common for people in the middle stages of Alzheimer’s symptoms, to have trouble following or joining into a conversation. Again – you need to be careful in diagnosing symptoms.
I have had it myself, when I am suffering from jet-lag, and when I am really tired, that the mind more or less goes to sleep – and even in the middle of a conversation – you completely lose your train of thought. That is NOT a symptom of Alzheimer’s.
But when people who are not tired – and they stop halfway through a conversation – and cannot complete the conversation – or when they start to ramble a bit – or when they start repeating themselves – then these are common Alzheimer’s symptoms.
MISPLACING OR LOSING ITEMS
Last week we looked at forgetfulness as an early symptom. However, when people start to regularly lose items or put them away in unusual places, then this could easily be another symptom of Alzheimer Dementia.
For example, when you need to look for the car keys in the fridge, or cups and saucers in the linen press, then you know something is not right. I have seen quite a few cases where people accuse others (even their carers) of stealing things, like purses, wallets and handbags.
Please do not take it personally – these people genuinely cannot find their items and start to think that someone has taken them – and since you are there more often than others – you are the likely suspect. Reassure them and help them look for the lost items – and expect to find them in the weirdest places. Remember, any recent events are difficult for them to retrace, so they cannot remember where they placed the items.
When people start to have difficulty with simple tasks – like tying shoelaces – getting dressed – going to the toilet – making a cup of tea – then you are getting into the advanced stages of Alzheimer Dementia.
Making a cup of tea appears to be a very simple act, but when you break it down into individual steps: walk to the kitchen – getting the kettle – taking it to the sink/tap – placing the kettle underneath the tap – turning on the tap – turning off the tap when you have enough water – (what is enough water) – taking the kettle back and putting it down – plugging it into the power – turning it on – getting a cup from the cupboard – getting the teabags – getting the sugar – getting the milk – getting a teaspoon – waiting for the water to boil – filling the cup with hot water – placing the teabag into the cup – picking up the cup and bringing it to you.
These are tasks that you and I take for granted – but for a dementia patient – this is a huge lists of individual tasks. So do not be surprised if you get a cup of hot water – because the patient forgot the teabag. If you really want to complicate it – just ask for a piece of cake or a biscuit.
In severe cases of Alzheimer Dementia, the patient will have trouble walking, eating, talking, toileting and even sitting. I have experienced several of my half brothers and sisters who lost the ability to do anything by themselves and were total care patients. One of my sisters spend the last months of her life curled up in a fetal position. One of my brothers did not recognize me – I was just this pleasant visitor who occasionally came to visit him with his wife.
When they have reached this stage – they require total care which is often impossible in the home. The best solution is often a place in a nursing home or something similar where trained nurses can take care of them. Since they have difficulty walking, they are at high risk of falling and suffering breakages. Consequently they become less mobile and may pick up other illnesses as a result.
So total support around the clock is needed for these dementia patients. When this phase has been reached life expectancy is really determined by the quality of the care provided. So it is wise to check out care givers and nursing homes before you send your loved one there.
In the coming weeks I will focus on how to cope with Alzheimer patients – here is a link to a short introduction.