The Five A’s of Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most difficult illnesses one may face. Not only does it affect the mind and body, but it is also unpredictable in nature. Symptoms that present themselves today may not be present tomorrow.
While Alzheimer’s symptoms may evolve, five characteristics of Alzheimer’s are repeatedly present in almost every person diagnosed with the disease.
These five traits are coined the five A’s of Alzheimer’s, and while familiarizing yourself with them will not eliminate memory care needs, it may help you to better prepare for the disease you or your loved one is up against.
The first A is Amnesia. Amnesia is a form of memory loss that typically begins with lapses in short-term memory function. Long-term memory loss may also occur as dementia progresses. When a person loses their ability to recall memories, they begin to lose the ability to retain new information.
Amnesia is not to be mistaken for common age-related forgetfulness. With regular forgetfulness, you may misplace an item in a place that makes sense; for instance, you may leave your car keys on the table rather than hang them up on your key holder. With amnesia, you may misplace your car keys in the freezer.
How to React to Amnesia
When someone is experiencing amnesia, they are not in control of their memory, and they are not being purposefully forgetful. Furthermore, when someone is displaying amnesia signs, it may be taken as the individual being hard of hearing, but that is not the case.
To help facilitate communication with someone experiencing amnesia, speak slowly and clearly to help them better retain information.
Aphasia is another A of Alzheimer’s disease. Aphasia is when someone is experiencing a struggle while trying to communicate. This may be displayed as problems when speaking or processing information during a conversation.
Aphasia may include a person using nonsense words, repeating sounds, substituting one word for another, generalizing objects as “things” rather than their name, or mixing up the sounds in a word.
Aphasia may also impair someone’s ability to hear or understand the full extent of what is being conveyed to them, causing them to nod in confusion or avoid these situations.
How to React to Aphasia
There are several helpful tips to keep in mind when communicating with a loved one who is experiencing aphasia, such as:
- Allow your loved one to take their time while responding; even if it’s prolonged, remember to have patience.
- Simplify the way you speak, so they have a better chance of understanding the message.
- Ask straightforward questions, offer clear choices, and avoid being vague.
Apraxia describes someone who is having difficulty with their motor skills. Alzheimer’s affects basic motor function, causing everyday movements and activities to become challenging, as the brain does not communicate with their muscles as it once did.
Apraxia is often seen in activities such as bathing, walking, eating, or dressing, but can also affect the way one speaks.
How to React to Apraxia
Apraxia can be strenuous to navigate, as it’s hard to watch your loved one struggle. However, there are ways to address the situation, such as:
- Offering clear instructions broken down into small, understandable steps.
- Remove distractions and create a calm environment.
- Demonstrate the task or activity they are to complete, so they can better understand how to accomplish it on their own.
- Take breaks when necessary; if you or your loved one is overwhelmed, the best thing to do is take a step back.
- Prioritize vigilance, as people with apraxia are at higher risk of falls or accidents.
- Declutter their environment and implement additional safety measures such as grab bars to help their mobility.
Agnosia is one of the most dreaded symptoms of Alzheimer’s, and often the most challenging to accept as a loved one. Agnosia is an inability or difficulty in recognizing familiar people, places, or objects.
Agnosia is heart-wrenching for the loved one. However, it’s important to remember that agnosia is just as difficult for the person experiencing it first-hand, as they may feel embarrassed, confused, disoriented, or afraid when faced with unfamiliar people or things.
How to React to Agnosia
There are several ways to help your loved one with agnosia, including the following:
- Use gestures instead of words to communicate your message. For instance, instead of saying “brush your teeth,” demonstrate what you mean.
- Plan ahead by organizing their day. This may include placing their shoes next to their socks to pique their memory or reminding them of certain behaviors.
- Label areas of their home, such as objects, rooms, and the people in their photographs.
- Be sure that your loved one always has their identification on them, such as a photo ID in their pocket at all times.
Similar to aphasia, anomia is when someone with Alzheimer’s experiences difficulty or confusion when trying to come up with the correct word to describe an object, place, or person.
In most cases, the person knows what they are trying to say, but cannot think of the appropriate word to describe it, which can be very frustrating.
How to React to Anomia
When someone you love is facing the challenges of memory care and struggling with anomia, there are certain measures you can take to help, such as:
- Give them time to think and try to come up with the word. Do not cut them off and say the word for them.
- Try to help them by offering suggestions related to the word to try to exercise their memory.
Patience Is Key
With all five A’s of Alzheimer’s disease, patience is critical. It is essential to remind yourself that your loved one is not displaying these symptoms intentionally, and that they, too, are struggling. Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are devastating, but with love, compassion, and understanding, they can be managed.
When you find yourself struggling to cope with the five A’s of Alzheimer’s, remind yourself that you are only human, and it’s normal to feel frustrated.
However, your loved one is feeling frustrated, too. Sometimes it is best to take a step back from the situation and let everyone cool down before trying one of the helpful tactics mentioned above.
Rely On the Dementia Care Professionals
At Placita In Home Care, our highly trained and experienced dementia care professionals can help your family learn and grow while you navigate the complexities of Alzheimer’s disease.
Backed by years of knowledge, our team is here to help you navigate these challenging transitions. Contact our compassionate care experts today to learn more about memory care and how you can help your loved one live a fulfilling life despite their Alzheimer’s diagnosis.