The Seven Stages Of Dementia
One of the most difficult things to hear about dementia is that, in most cases, dementia is irreversible and incurable. However, with an early diagnosis and proper care, the progression of some forms of dementia can be managed and slowed down. The cognitive decline that accompanies dementia conditions does not happen all at once – the progression of dementia can be divided into seven distinct, identifiable stages.
Learning about the stages of dementia can help with identifying signs and symptoms early on, as well as assisting sufferers and caretakers in knowing what to expect in further stages. The earlier dementia is diagnosed, the sooner treatment can start.
What Causes Alzheimer’s Disease To Progress So Quickly
The progression of Alzheimers disease varies widely between individuals, with most people living with the condition for between 3 and 11 years after the initial diagnosis. In some cases, people may survive for more than 20 years. When Alzheimers is detected early, there are possible treatments that can help to slow the progression of the disease and contribute to a longer life expectancy.
It is therefore crucial to plan for the future and follow the progression of the disease through each stage. Alzheimers disease first begins with physical changes in the brain. This can happen at a gradual pace before any noticeable symptoms appear. In fact, this pre-clinical Alzheimers disease stage can begin 10 to 15 years before any symptoms appear.
What Role Do Genes Play In Late
In 1906, Dr. Alois Alzheimers research uncovered a link between damaged brain tissue and memory loss. Since then, scientists have learned a lot more about the disease named after him. We now know that early-onset Alzheimers is usually based on genetics and can be more readily inherited, while you are less likely to inherit late-onset Alzheimers.
There is no single gene mutation that causes late-onset Alzheimers. The late-onset condition seems to be caused by multiple genes. The most problematic and best-known gene is called ApoE and has been clinically linked with late-onset Alzheimers.
To complicate matters further, there are three versions of the ApoE gene: ApoE2, ApoE3 and ApoE4. Out of this alphabet soup, the ApoE4 gene has been linked with an increased risk of acquiring Alzheimers.
Having the ApoE gene doesnt mean you will definitely develop the disease, but it does increase your risk. On the flip side, some people without the ApoE gene can still develop Alzheimers as well.
There are also plenty of non-genetic risk factors that can contribute to late-onset Alzheimers. In other words, inherited genes arent the only cause of Alzheimers. What researchers call epigenetic events can impact your risk for Alzheimer’s because they may result in changes in genes. They can be negatively or positively attributed to factors such as diet, exercise, smoking, environmental hazards, diabetes and other diseases.
Prevalence Of Young Onset Dementia
- In 2014, it was estimated that there were 42,325 people in the UK with a diagnosis of young onset dementia. They represent around 5% of the 850,000 people living with dementia
- The actual figure is likely to be higher because of the difficulties of diagnosing the condition and might be closer to 6-9% of all people living with dementia
- Prevalence rates for young onset dementia in black and minority ethnic groups are higher than for the population as a whole. People from BAME backgrounds are less likely to receive a diagnosis or support
- People with a learning disability are at greater risk of developing dementia at a younger age. Studies have shown that one in ten develop young onset Alzheimers disease between the age of 50 to 65. The number of people with Downs syndrome who develop Alzheimers disease is even greater
What Causes Younger Onset Dementia
Many different types of dementia can affect younger people. Each type has its own symptoms and is caused by a specific type of change in the brain. Some causes of early onset dementia are:
- Alzheimers disease
- problems with blood flow to the brain
- deterioration to the front part of the brain
- chronic overuse of alcohol over many years
Also Check: Do Parkinsons And Alzheimers Go Together
What Causes Alzheimers Disease
In recent years, scientists have made tremendous progress in better understanding Alzheimers and the momentum continues to grow. Still, scientists dont yet fully understand what causes Alzheimers disease in most people. In people with early-onset Alzheimers, a genetic mutation may be the cause. Late-onset Alzheimers arises from a complex series of brain changes that may occur over decades. The causes probably include a combination of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. The importance of any one of these factors in increasing or decreasing the risk of developing Alzheimers may differ from person to person.
Life Expectancy After An Alzheimers Disease Diagnosis
The most honest answer to Genevieves question may be, It depends. After a diagnosis of Alzheimers disease or another dementia, people can live for months to years, depending on individual circumstances. Its been shown that factors like age, race, genetics, health background, socioeconomic status, and education influence the life expectancy of large numbers of people with Alzheimers. However, every individuals disease is different, and may not follow the average course.
Dementia is one of the top causes of death in the United States, and the events leading to death in a person with dementia such as complications related to an infection after aspiration, or falling are not always directly linked to the disease. In order to provide a more useful answer, I want to write about life expectancy in general and then Ill list some of the factors that help us think about survival. Again, while these may influence life expectancy with Alzheimer’s in general, individuals sometimes depart from statistics and have a different disease course.
For anyone with dementia, there is a period of survival with the disease, and this can be a challenging and complicated time for caregivers, a time during which family members need to work together, plan for the future, and cope with an increasingly difficult set of circumstances.
The Combined Effect Of Multiple Genes
Why is the inheritance of late-onset Alzheimers so much less frequent than for early-onset? In part, the answer is that there is no single gene mutation that consistently causes late-onset Alzheimers in the autosomal dominant pattern characteristic of early-onset AD. Instead, the late-onset form seems to represent the combined effect of multiple genes, each of which increases the risk a little. The best known of these, the apolipoprotein E gene , provides information that the body needs to make a protein that plays a role in the transport of fats and cholesterol throughout the body. The Greek letter epsilon followed by a number is used to name the parts of ApoEs three versions: ApoE2, ApoE3, and ApoE4. One ApoE gene copy is inherited from each parent, so any combination of two gene copies can be present. The 4 type has been linked with an increased risk for early or late onset AD, and people who have inherited two copies are at even greater risk. It is estimated that people with the two copies of the 4 gene are at 12 to 15 times the risk for AD compared to noncarriers.4 But inheriting one or even two ApoE 4 genes does not guarantee that AD will develop, nor does the absence of any 4 genes assure that AD will not develop. In African Americans, the relationship of ApoE genotype to AD inheritance risk is weaker than in European Ancestry populations.
What Are The Warning Signs Of Alzheimers Disease
Watch this video play circle solid iconMemory Loss is Not a Normal Part of Aging
Alzheimers disease is not a normal part of aging. Memory problems are typically one of the first warning signs of Alzheimers disease and related dementias.
In addition to memory problems, someone with symptoms of Alzheimers disease may experience one or more of the following:
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life, such as getting lost in a familiar place or repeating questions.
- Trouble handling money and paying bills.
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure.
- Misplacing things and being unable to retrace steps to find them.
- Changes in mood, personality, or behavior.
Even if you or someone you know has several or even most of these signs, it doesnt mean its Alzheimers disease. Know the 10 warning signs .
Also Check: What Color Ribbon Is Alzheimer’s
How To Improve A Loved One’s Quality Of Life After Diagnosis
While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, there are activities and therapies designed to improve your loved ones quality of life. For example, the extent to which your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease can maintain their social relationships may play a large role.
At home, it’s important to try to maintain as much normalcy as possible. In particular, it can be helpful for your loved one to maintain their household responsibilities. In the later stages of the disease, your loved one’s needs are likely to change, and it’s critical for you as a caregiver to know how to care for yourself as well as your loved one.
Forgetfulness And Memory Loss
While forgetting where you placed your car keys may commonly occur with anyone at any age, and perhaps a bit more as you age, persistent forgetfulness or lapses in memory is typically a sign that something is wrong. For people with early onset Alzheimers, they may begin noticing abnormal and chronic lapses in memory as early as their 30s or 40s.
If youre missing where you are and how you got there, struggling to find the right words when conversing or consistently forgetting what your partner asked you to do, yet you feel as if youre too young to be experiencing these things, you may be developing some signs of early memory decline.
Recommended Reading: What Is The Difference Between Dementia And Senility
Stage : Moderately Severe Decline
Your loved one might start to lose track of where they are and what time it is. They might have trouble remembering their address, phone number, or where they went to school. They could get confused about what kind of clothes to wear for the day or season.
You can help by laying out their clothing in the morning. It can help them dress by themselves and keep a sense of independence.
If they repeat the same question, answer with an even, reassuring voice. They might be asking the question less to get an answer and more to just know you’re there.
Even if your loved one can’t remember facts and details, they might still be able to tell a story. Invite them to use their imagination at those times.
Reasons Rate Of Alzheimers Disease Increases With Age
When talking about the average age for Alzheimers, it is important to discuss the reasons the illness increases with age.
Healthy brains clear out amyloid-beta regularly. This ability tends to slow down as people grow older.
A study from The Washington University School of Medicine shows that for people in their 30s a healthy brain will clear amyloid-beta every 4 hours.
When a person is 80 the brain may take at least 10 hours to complete the job. This may explain the relationship between Alzheimers and age.
Recommended Reading: What Color Ribbon Is Alzheimer’s
What Are The Symptoms Of Early
For most people with early-onset Alzheimer disease, the symptoms closely mirror those of other forms of Alzheimer disease.
Withdrawal from work and social situations
Changes in mood and personality
Severe mood swings and behavior changes
Deepening confusion about time, place, and life events
Suspicions about friends, family, or caregivers
Trouble speaking, swallowing, or walking
Severe memory loss
Managing Alzheimer’s Disease Behavior
Common behavioral symptoms of Alzheimers include sleeplessness, wandering, agitation, anxiety, and aggression. Scientists are learning why these symptoms occur and are studying new treatments drug and nondrug to manage them. Research has shown that treating behavioral symptoms can make people with Alzheimers more comfortable and makes things easier for caregivers.
You May Like: Dementia Paranoia Accusations
Alzheimers Disease Vs Mild Cognitive Impairment
Early dementia, also known as mild cognitive impairment , involves problems with memory, language, or other cognitive functions. But unlike those with full-blown Alzheimers, people with MCI are still able to function in their daily lives without relying on others.
According to the Alzheimers Association, about 15 to 20 percent of people over the age of 65 experience mild cognitive impairment. Many people with MCI eventually develop Alzheimers disease or another type of dementia. However, others plateau at a relatively mild stage of decline and are able to live independently. Some people with mild cognitive impairment even return to normal.
Symptoms of MCI include:
- Frequently losing or misplacing things.
- Frequently forgetting conversations, appointments, or events.
- Difficulty remembering the names of new acquaintances.
- Difficulty following the flow of a conversation.
It is not yet fully understood why MCI progresses to Alzheimers disease in some, while remaining stable in others. The course is difficult to predict, but in general, the greater the degree of memory impairment, the greater the risk of developing Alzheimers down the line.
Difficulty Completing Familiar Tasks
Some people may experience a greater problem with concentration. Routine day-to-day tasks requiring critical thought may take longer as the disease progresses.
The ability to drive safely may also be called into question. If you or a loved one gets lost while driving a commonly traveled route, this may be a symptom of AD.
Read Also: Alzheimer’s Ribbon Color
When To See A Doctor
Forgetfulness and memory problems dont automatically point to dementia. These are normal parts of aging and can also occur due to other factors, such as fatigue. Still, you shouldnt ignore the symptoms. If you or someone you know is experiencing a number of dementia symptoms that arent improving, talk with a doctor.
They can refer you to a neurologist who can examine you or your loved ones physical and mental health and determine whether the symptoms result from dementia or another cognitive problem. The doctor may order:
- a complete series of memory and mental tests
- a neurological exam
- brain imaging tests
If youre concerned about your forgetfulness and dont already have a neurologist, you can view doctors in your area through the Healthline FindCare tool.
Dementia is more common in people over the age of 65, but it can also affect younger people. Early onset of the disease can begin when people are in their 30s, 40s, or 50s. With treatment and early diagnosis, you can slow the progression of the disease and maintain mental function. The treatments may include medications, cognitive training, and therapy.
Possible causes of dementia include:
Symptoms Appear Before Age 60
Perhaps the biggest defining sign of early onset Alzheimers is the timing of the symptoms first appearing. The most common form of Alzheimers, late onset Alzheimers, typically begins showing signs when a person is in their 60s.
Early onset Alzheimers, meanwhile, can start taking effect as early as your 30s and 40s. Typically, patients are diagnosed with early onset Alzheimers in their 40s or 50s.
Dr. James Ellison of the Swank Memory Care Center at Christiana Care Health System in Delaware writes that the majority of early onset Alzheimers disease does not run in families. Some families, however, do have a genetic mutation that almost guarantees development of early onset Alzheimers.
In an interview, Dr. Ellison said that people in their 40s and 50s should not be experiencing the so-called 10 warning symptoms of Alzheimers. If they are, they may have the early onset version of the disease.
In your 40s and 50s you should not be experiencing these symptoms, Ellison said. If you know something is wrong, keep looking for doctors or others who have the knowledge to treat you.
You May Like: Does Meredith Grey Have Alzheimer’s
The Importance Of Language
- The language used to talk about younger people with dementia can strongly influence how others treat or view them, and how they feel about themselves.
- For example, referring to people with dementia as sufferers or as victims implies that they are helpless. This not only strips people of their dignity and self-esteem, it reinforces inaccurate stereotypes and heightens the fear and stigma surrounding dementia.
- Young onset dementia is not necessarily the defining aspect of someones identity. They are a person first and should always be described, and treated, as such. Life does not stop when dementia starts.
- Using the correct terms avoids confusion. There are many forms of dementia. Alzheimers disease is just one of them and the terms are not interchangeable.
- Young onset or working-age dementia are preferable terms to early onset dementia so as to avoid confusion with the early stages of dementia generally.
The Dementia Engagement & Empowerment Project has published a dementia language guide. ‘Dementia words matter: guidelines on language about dementia’ has been written in collaboration with people who have dementia. To download this useful and informative guide, please click here.
Withdrawing From Work And Social Life
People with early onset Alzheimers, who were once industrious and focused at their challenging jobs, may begin noticing a drop in concentration, motivation or productivity thats out of character for them. They may also find themselves isolating from family, friends, coworkers or hobbies that they used to previously enjoy.
Recommended Reading: Dementia Ribbon Colour
Other Causes Of Alzheimers Symptoms
Other conditions can mimic early Alzheimers symptoms, such as:
Central nervous system and other degenerative disorders, including head injuries, brain tumors, stroke, epilepsy, Picks Disease, Parkinsons disease, and Huntingtons disease.
Metabolic ailments, such as hypothyroidism, hypoglycemia, malnutrition, vitamin deficiencies, dehydration, and kidney or liver failure.
Substance-induced conditions, such as drug interactions, medication side-effects, alcohol and drug abuse.
Infections, such as meningitis, encephalitis, and syphilis.