Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia that leads to problems with a person’s memory, ability to think, and how they behave. Individuals with this disease will experience three stages as it progresses with symptoms worsening over a number of years.
A person with early-stage Alzheimer’s can still function independently. The individual is still able to drive, work, and take part in activities; however, he or she may feel as though they are having memory lapses.
- Not able to come up with the right word or name
- Not able to remember the names of people he or she was just introduced to
- Increased difficulty with planning or organizing
A person will typically experience middle-stage Alzheimer’s the longest. This stage can last for many years as symptoms begin to progress and worsen. During this stage, a person may experience frustration or anger and act out in unexpected ways. The individual may experience difficulty in expressing thoughts and performing daily tasks without assistance.
- Forgetting events or personal history
- Experiencing confusion about where they are or what day it is
- Needing help choosing appropriate clothes based on the season or occasion
- Increased tendency to wander and become lost
This is the final stage of the disease and where symptoms are most severe. Those in this stage lose the ability to hold a conversation and control movement. They may still say words or phrases, but are unable to express thoughts and feelings.
- No longer aware of recent experiences or of their surroundings
- Changes in physical abilities such as walking, sitting, and, eventually, swallowing
- Become more susceptible to infections such as pneumonia
Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. On average, a person lives four-eight years after diagnosis, but can live as long as 20 years.
Recognizing the 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s
It is important not to ignore the warning signs that you or a loved one may have Alzheimer’s. If you or a loved one is experiencing any of these 10 warning signs, it is important to schedule an appointment with your doctor.
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life
This can include forgetting recently learned information as well as important dates or events.
- Challenges in planning or solving problems.
Some individuals may have difficulty concentrating and need more time to complete tasks than before. This can include having difficulty following a recipe they are already familiar with or keeping track of monthly finances.
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks
Completing daily tasks becomes troublesome as driving to a familiar place or remembering what items are regularly retrieved from the grocery store grows difficult.
- Confusion with time or place
Individuals may lose the ability to recognize the passage of time and have difficulty understanding if an event is not happening immediately. They also may forget where they are and how they got there.
- Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
Some people will experience vision problems and have difficulty with keeping their balance or reading.
- New problems with words in speaking or writing
People with this disease will begin expressing difficulty in conversation. They may abruptly stop in the middle of a conversation forgetting how to continue or they may repeat themselves. Individuals will struggle with vocabulary and have difficulty naming a familiar object.
- Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
An individual with Alzheimer’s may be unable to figure out where they left something, and will begin accusing others of stealing.
- Decreased or poor judgement
Individuals may begin to make poor decisions regarding their money, and they may pay less attention towards their personal hygiene.
- Withdrawal from work or social activities
As holding conversations becomes difficult, a person with Alzheimer’s may begin withdrawing from their favorite social activities.
- Changes in mood and personality
A person with Alzheimer’s may experience mood swings and personality changes. They may become confused, suspicious, depressed, anxious, or fearful, and may become easily upset.
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TMS and Alzheimer’s
To date, there is unfortunately no known cure for Alzheimer’s. However, there are several treatment options being researched to help alleviate symptoms and prolong the disease’s progression. While TMS has most commonly been studied as a way to treat depression, it is currently being researched as a treatment option for Alzheimer’s with several studies showing positive results.
TMS and Repetitive TMS (rTMS) have undergone several research studies with more underway to study the effect it has on people with Alzheimer’s. While further research is still needed, current studies have found that TMS may be an accurate, non-invasive way to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease.
One study involved eight participants and analyzed their cognitive abilities after receiving rTMS and cognitive training daily for six weeks followed by twice a week for the next three months. The participants’ cognitive functioning was assessed prior to the study, six weeks into the study, and four and half months after the start of the study. The researchers found that the scores on the Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale-Cognitive improved by 4 points both at six weeks into the study and at the four and a half month mark.
Researchers have conducted several other studies as well involving rTMS alone without cognitive training that have also seen positive results. After receiving rTMS, participants in multiple studies demonstrated improvements in auditory sentence comprehension, action naming, and object naming ability.
Some research found that those with early-stage Alzheimer’s showed more cognitive improvement than participants with middle-stage or late-stage Alzheimer’s. So far, no significant side effects have been identified.
Further clinical trials are needed and are currently being conducted. To view current trials underway, visit clinicaltrials.gov.
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