While every patient is different, when a person is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, they usually have experienced minor memory loss or mild cognitive impairment (MCI) during the early stage. This disease often goes undiagnosed, and in some cases misdiagnosed, for years before the symptoms become evident.
Some stages overlap. The changes in the brain that occur during the preclinical stages of Alzheimer’s Disease may be present but undetected for years or even decades before any noticeable symptoms occur. Often, by the time these changes appear, and the impairment becomes noticeable, the disease has progressed to the middle stage. Many times, the initial stages are either ignored or mistaken for depression or another illness.
While the hippocampus is the part of the brain responsible for forming new memories and learning new information, it is often damaged in Alzheimer’s. This means that people with Alzheimer’s disease have a hard time remembering recent events and often repeat conversations. While hippocampus activity is important for recent or present memory retrieval, it is less important for long-term memories. Therefore, in the initial stages of the disease, a person may remember a past event perfectly despite having a damaged hippocampus.
The first indicator of Alzheimer’s disease is often semantic memory. A patient with the disease has a progressive decline in general knowledge that they once could recall easily. For instance, questions about celebrities and well-known logos are more difficult for them to answer. In later stages, they may also have difficulty identifying objects and animals. Some people with the disease can no longer identify familiar objects, but they may remember how they felt about an important event or relationship. Even if they don’t remember specific details, they may recognize certain objects or recall emotions from seeing a drawing or photograph.
Dementia in Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disorder in which a person loses cognitive abilities. Researchers studied this condition and the effect of executive function on the severity of dementia. Some studies even show that age can influence cognitive function. However, the current state of our knowledge of dementia is still limited.
The Stroop task and the Stroop color-word tests have been considered the gold standard for assessing impairment specifically in the prefrontal cortices of the brain. Researchers have used the Stroop method to determine the effect of both age and dementia on brain performance since the 1930s. Other studies have examined the role of negative priming, where subjects with Alzheimer’s tend to have more difficulty with the tasks. Studies on the effect of aging and dementia and memory performance have revealed that different types of dementia affect different components of memory and attention. For example, age-related differences in inhibitory functioning are found in the Stroop tests, meaning healthy elderly participants were more likely to take their time to comprehend the questions and answer correctly. Older people with mild Alzheimer’s disease suffer worse performance in the task.
Nursing Care Resources
For people who are caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, there are many nursing care resources for Alzheimer’s. Many of these resources will help the caregiver better understand the disease, teach them how to manage the disease, and provide additional support. In addition to providing information on specific conditions, they will provide practical information for long-term care communities. Take the time to learn about your local community resources and be well informed before you decide on a care facility or home nursing provider.
Medicaid is a state-funded program for the elderly and low-income families. Individuals with Alzheimer’s may qualify for Medicaid benefits, which will cover the cost of nursing home care. Each state administers Medicaid programs separately, and the benefits of caring for an individual with dementia may vary. This information can help you find out if Medicaid will cover the care your loved one needs.