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The 4 A’s of Alzheimer’s Disease

By Jonathan Wells, 8:00 am on

Seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s will display certain recognizable behaviors as a result of changes in the brain. Often characterized by stages, these brain changes occur as the various regions responsible for memories or bodily functions are affected over time. If you provide home care for an aging parent or loved one with Alzheimer’s, recognizing these phases – also referred to as the “4 A’s of Alzheimer’s” – can help you provide the highest level of quality care as the disease progresses.

  1. Amnesia – The first A of Alzheimer’s is amnesia, which affects a senior’s short-term memory. Amnesia occurs when one is unable to recall facts, events and information as they would normally. Your senior loved one may ask questions such as “Where am I?” or “When are we going to eat?” and continue repeating them, even if they have been answered.
  2. Aphasia – Aphasia refers to the inability to both communicate and understand. Your loved one may forget learned words, making it difficult to express how he or she is feeling. If your loved one has difficulty understanding spoken or written word, this is referred to as excessive aphasia. Sometimes a person in this stage of Alzheimer’s will nod in agreement when listening to make it seem as if they understand. It is also important to keep in mind that while your loved one may not be able to understand words, he or she may still retain the ability to understand non-verbal cues like facial expressions.
  3. Apraxia – This is the inability to use or coordinate purposeful muscle movement, which makes it difficult or impossible to perform activities of daily living such as getting dressed or brushing teeth. Along with skilled movement, a person’s sensory perception is affected, making it difficult for him or her to experience pain, touch, temperature and pressure. Later, other functions that were once second nature such as walking, chewing and swallowing will become affected, increasing the risk of choking or aspiration.
  4. Agnosia – The fourth of the Four A’s is recognized by the inability to adequately process and interpret signals from the five senses. As a result, those in this stage may not be able to recognize once familiar faces and objects. Another typical agnosia symptom is being unable to recognize internal sensations such as chest pain or a full bladder.

Recognizing each stage of Alzheimer’s, and keeping track of physical challenges and changes in mood and behavior will allow you to better communicate with your loved one’s doctors and caregivers to ensure consistent and appropriate care at all times.

To learn more about caring for a senior with Alzheimer’s, reach out to the Douglas County Alzheimer’s care experts at Home Care Assistance and schedule a complimentary, no-obligation consultation. Call 720-441-3522 – we’re here to help 24/7.