Alzheimer’s Disease in its early stages can be initially difficult to identify. The onset of the dementia of the Alzheimer’s type is gradual. The first indications of the disease may vary among persons with Alzheimer. On casual observation the beginning signs may be subtle and for a period only a single sign may be evident. The first signs might include a problem with language, difficulty managing household finances, decline in performance at an established job, getting lost or disoriented in familiar surroundings, negative changes in mood or behavioral interactions, and a pattern of misplacing things. The persistent symptoms of disorientation, recent memory loss, functional confusion, and inability to make rational decisions will increasingly become evident as time passes.
Managing Signs and Symptoms
Management of the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease requires increasing involvement of medical and mental health providers as the condition progressive through the stages of the disease. Managing Alzheimer’s disease requires the skillful combination of medication and supportive care from family caregivers and health care providers. Medications can be prescribed for the purpose of enhancing and/or maintaining the cognitive functioning of the person with Alzheimer’s dementia. In addition, medications are used to address adverse behavioral symptoms, such as, agitation, paranoia, anxiety, insomnia, hallucinations, and catastrophic reactions.
Besides the judicious use of medications, the use of environmental interventions is essential. There is a common need to examine the living space and arrangements to see if modifications can be implemented to improve the safety and mental clarity of the person. Educational support programs for family members and caregivers are very beneficial in helping those caring for a person with Alzheimer’s disease. Family caregivers who increase their understanding of the disease and ways to constructively deal with problems are better able to cope and help the person remain emotionally stable. Structuring the daily routine of the person’s life has been shown to sustain the level of functioning and satisfaction for all involved. Finally, activity programs that help to minimize disruptive behaviors and enhance the person’s remaining strengths provide direction to maintaining a quality of life that remains rewarding.
Appropriate behavioral management of difficult symptoms and problem behaviors will always necessitate ongoing observation and monitoring. The family caregiver, who shares their observations with health care providers, can serve as an early warning sentry for the health professional. Promptly identifying changes in the physical and mental functioning can result in earlier interventions to optimize the wellbeing of the person with Alzheimer’s dementia, which is the goal of all of us involved.