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The 7 stages of Alzheimer's Disease and when to seek treatment

eldercare031411_optBY CAROL ABAYA
NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM
THE SANDWICH GENERATION

When a person cannot take care of personal tasks it may be too late for medical treatment of Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is THE most dehumanizing disease there is. More than 5 million Americans have now been scientifically identified as having AD, and 10 million baby boomers are in the wings to develop it.

I started this recent series because the spouses of two long-time friends have been tested to have AD. The spouses have been struggling with this disease for several years. The husband of one friend was a brilliant physicist, with a Ph.D. and played a key role in the development of new communications products. He no longer knows who I am. The wife of another friend also was a very bright person. She has retreated to behaving like a mentally challenged seven year old. The wife has recently been placed in an assisted living residence that has a special Alzheimer’s section and program.

Alzheimer’s is so devastating because it takes away all of the characteristics of a mature adult human being and returns that person to an infant, who can do nothing for self. This is particularly hard to handle by family members, especially spouses who remember the good times. It is particularly disheartening because to date there has been no cure. But various drugs now in the clinical trials stage show great promise for a breakthrough in the treatment of AD, provided the testing proves the protocols are effective and provided the disease is confirmed in the early stages. (See the last two weeks of The Sandwich Generation columns.)

Years ago Barry Reisberg, M.D. developed the Functional Assessment Staging of Alzheimer’s Disease. He divided the disease’s progression into seven stages.

Stage 1: There are no difficulties either subjectively or objectively.

Stage 2: Person complains of forgetting location of objects and has some difficulty in using appropriate words.

Stage 3: This a key beginning stage and is identifiable from family members or co-workers, for early unset AD. The person has decreased job function and organization abilities and has difficulty traveling to new locations.

Stage 4: Decreased ability to perform complex tasks, to handle finances and to do grocery shopping.

Stage 5: Requires assistance in choosing proper clothing to wear, depending on the time of year.

Stage 6: This is a critical stage and begins a fast downward progression. The person has difficulty dressing,and bathing without assistance. Incontinence becomes frequent. The person may forget the names of family members and friends, and even does not know who the person is. (Years ago I visited the mother of a friend of mine while my friend was on vacation. I knew the mother well. She was in an assisted living residence, and we chatted awhile as she told me what she had done the day before. I finally said to her “Hannah, do you know who I am?” “Not really,” she said, “I do know I know you.”

Stage 7: This is the last stage. Speech ability dramatically decreases and often only single words are intelligible. Repetition of the same idea or thing becomes more pronounced. Walking and even sitting up becomes problematic and complete help is needed. Most become bedridden.

Dr. Joel Ross, M.D., FACP, AGSF, CMD CPI, of Eatontown, New Jersey, is in the forefront of research in Alzheimer’s and Mild Cognitive Impairment. (See last week’s article.) He is founder and CEO of the Memory Enhancement Centers of America and now heads several clinical trials of drugs to treat Alzheimer’s.

Ross says people should seek medical evaluation in Stages 2 and 3. If identified in these early stages, there may be hope for future effective treatment. By Stage 6, he says, it is too late for help.

The Sandwich Generation is reader interactive. Questions and comments from readers are welcome. Contact Carol Abaya via her website sandwichgeneration.com (where there is a special series of articles on Alzheimer’s) or via e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

RECENT COLUMNS BY CAROL ABAYA

N.J. study reveals Alzheimer’s progression may be reversed with new drugs

Love is meaningful to the elderly

Start saying 'NO' to elder care demands: You aren’t Superwoman

Elderly have the right to refuse medical treatment

Adult children should not force aging parents to move in

Don't make every decision for aging parents

Learn to say 'no' to parents’ demands and find a support system

Creativity at any age brings new life to elders

Family and friends should watch closely for signs of elder abuse

Age should not stop pain relieving surgery

Studies show anger can kill either caregiver or elder

Elder caregivers need to be top on their own priority list

Cuts to reverse mortgage counseling pose risk to seniors

Managing your elder's assets

Avoid taking an elder with Alzheimer's on vacation

 
Comments (2)
2 Monday, 14 November 2011 02:25
little miss curious
my grandmother has been diagnosed with stage 1 Alzheimer's and hypertension stage 2. Do you have any suggestions on how she could be treated and managed?
1 Friday, 11 November 2011 23:09
ROSANN ALEXANDER
MOTHER CHANTS AND REPEATS ROLLY RANGO...OVER AND OVER. SHE CANNOT DO ANYTHING FOR HERSELF. SHE CHANTS AND AS SHE IS CHANTING SHE SEEMS FEARFUL. SHE DOES NOT KNOW US BUT WILL GRAB US OR WHO EVER IS CLOSE. AND HOLD ON. MY SISTER THINKS SHE IS AFRAID AND WILL NOT LEAVE HER..BUT I HONESTLY BELIEVE MOTHER DOES NOT KNOW WHAT IS HAPPENING.. WE ARE SO CONFUSED AND ALMOST AT ODDS. ANY IDEAS OR SUGGESTIONS?

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