Understanding the 7 A’s of Alzheimer’s

There are several terms that are used to describe the symptoms and progression of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). It’s easy to get confused and not know what the medical professionals are talking about.

Alzheimers Terms

Let’s look at some of the terms used when talking about dementia or AD. Knowing them will be helpful to you if you’re a caregiver to someone who might have the disease.

1. Anosognosia

This is the state of not knowing that one has Alzheimer’s. Unlike a sexually transmitted disease, which has very visible symptoms such as lesions, etc. with mental problems, there are seldom any visible symptoms.

In fact, over 80% of AD sufferers don’t even know they have the disease when it’s in the mild stage. They may experience increased forgetfulness and mood swings, but these symptoms are not out of the ordinary.

The fact that their frontal lobes may be affected adversely might help to explain why they’re unaware of the disease’s presence even when others around them can tell that something is wrong. Their brain goes into denial and makes them believe that everything is normal.

2. Agnosia

This is the condition that’s most often shown in movies to elicit emotions from the viewers. When a senior is unable to recognize his or her loved ones, it’s a sign of agnosia. The inability to remember faces, names, places, voices, etc. is all categorized under agnosia.

3. Aphasia

This is a loss of speech and the ability to write. It occurs because of the progressive degeneration of the brain tissue that is associated with these cognitive functions. Once an AD patient has aphasia, even getting them to respond to what you’re saying becomes very difficult.

4. Apraxia

This is a condition where there is a loss of basic motor skills. Everything that used to be easy becomes increasingly difficult now. Taking a shower, changing one’s clothes, walking, eating, etc. become almost impossible as the disease progresses.

Elderly Woman with Ahzheimer's

Apraxia also increases the patient’s fall risk factor. So, a full-time caregiver may be necessary to monitor them constantly.

5. Amnesia

A very common term – amnesia refers to the inability to remember. With AD, the patient will experience short term memory loss in the beginning. They may forget what they had for lunch or what time it is, even if they just glanced at the clock 10 minutes earlier.

As the disease progresses, long term memory loss occurs. This is when they forget events in their life such as their wedding, birthdays, holidays, etc. This can very depressing to the patient who seems to have no idea what he or she experienced before.

The best way to describe this situation is a line from Jarod Kintz’s book (This Book Has No Title) – ““Alzheimer’s is the cleverest thief, because she not only steals from you, but she steals the very thing you need to remember what’s been stolen.”

6. Altered Perception

This is a situation where the mind misinterprets the information provided by the five senses. This occurs due to cognitive decline.

Alzheimer's Mis-perceptions

The person may experience hallucinations at times, or misperceptions. A red tiled floor may look like blood or a stone may look like a bun from the bakery. This confusion can be upsetting to the patient.

7. Apathy

Apathy occurs when the patient displays no interest in life anymore. They’re not motivated to do anything and rarely show any excitement. This can be tough on the caregiver who has to work harder to get the patient to engage in activities.

These 7 A’s can be seen in most Alzheimer’s sufferers. While they may not display all seven, there will at least be a couple that are evident. Now that you understand the terms and symptoms, you’ll have a better idea of what to look out for.

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