World Alzheimer’s Day takes today 21st September, and the main objective of this day is to adopt a resolution on dementia, in light of recent findings that more than 131 million people will be living with dementia by 2050.

Dementia is a collective name for progressive degenerative brain syndromes which affect memory, thinking, behaviour and emotion. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. Other common dementia conditions are Vascular dementia, Dementia with Lewy bodies or fronto-temporal dementia, including Pick’s disease.

What is Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and, eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks. In most people with Alzheimer’s, symptoms first appear in their mid-60s. Although treatment can help manage symptoms in some people, currently there is no cure for this devastating disease.

Estimates vary, but experts suggest that more than 46 million people have Alzheimer’s disease worldwide. Unless the disease can be effectively treated or prevented, the number of people with it will increase significantly because the risk of Alzheimer’s increases with age, and the worldwide population, especially in Europe and USA, is aging.

The time from diagnosis to death varies—as little as 3 or 4 years if the person is older than 80 when diagnosed to as long as 10 or more years if the person is younger.

alzheimers day

Stages of Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s is a slow disease that progresses in seven stages.

  1. No Impairment
    A preclinical stage with no symptoms. Alzheimer’s disease is not detectable and no memory problems or other symptoms of dementia are evident.
  2. Very Mild Decline
    Patients may notice minor memory problems, although not to the point where the memory loss can easily be distinguished from normal age related memory loss.
  3. Mild Decline
    At this stage, the friends and family members of the patient may begin to notice memory and cognitive problems. The elder will have difficulty in finding the right word during conversations or remembering names of new acquaintances.
  4. Moderate Decline
    Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are apparent. Patients have difficulty with simple arithmetic, may forget details about their life histories and have poor short term memory.
  5. Moderately Severe Decline
    Patients begin to need help with many day to day activities. People with this stage of Alzheimer’s disease may experience significant confusion, inability to recall simple details about themselves or difficulty dressing appropriately.
  6. Severe Decline
    Patients with this stage need constant supervision and frequently require professional care. Some symptoms may include confusion or unawareness of environment and surroundings, personality changes and potential behavior problems, need for assistance with daily activities, inability to recognize people or inability to remember most details of personal history, loss of bowel and bladder control
  7. Very Severe Decline
    In the final stage of Alzheimer’s disease, patients lose ability to respond to their environment or communicate, need assistance with all activities of daily living and may lose their ability to swallow.

What is dementia?

It is common for people to have mixed dementia, a combination of two or more disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, tumors or infections in the brain, some thyroid, kidney, or liver disorders, strokes and Parkinson’s disease.

Dementia knows no social, economic, ethnic or geographical boundaries. Although each person will experience dementia in their own way, eventually those affected are unable to care for themselves and need help with all aspects of daily life. There is currently no cure for most types of dementia, but treatments, advice, and support are available.