Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia, and it affects around six out of ten dementia patients in the UK. The natural ageing process causes our brains to shrink over time, slowing our mental processing capacity, which can affect our memory and thought processing. 

Changes in the brain in Alzheimer’s patients are different from those that typically occur due to normal ageing. In Alzheimer’s disease, two proteins, amyloid and tau, build up and cause more damage to the brain cells over time. 

Although modern medicine doesn’t yet have a complete understanding of what triggers Alzheimer’s disease, current research suggests that the accelerated damage caused by the build-up of amyloid and tau proteins leads to symptoms of  Alzheimer’s.

Most people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s are over the age of 65, which is called late-onset Alzheimer’s. However, this disease can sometimes affect younger people and is called young-onset Alzheimer’s disease. It is thought that young-onset Alzheimer’s disease has a genetic link, so those with a family history of Alzheimer’s may be more prone to developing the disease early.

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease 

Alzheimer’s disease tends to develop slowly over several years, and symptoms are not always apparent at first because they share many of the same symptoms of dementia. One of the first signs of Alzheimer’s disease development is a loss of interest and enjoyment in an individual’s day-to-day activities. However, symptoms can be subtle and easily mistaken for other health conditions, such as depression.

Symptoms such as forgetfulness and other memory problems can be associated with natural ageing or Alzheimer’s, so the exact cause can be challenging to pinpoint. 

Early symptoms of Alzheimer’s may include:

  • Disorientation: People may be unsure of their whereabouts or get lost, particularly in unfamiliar places.
  • Language and communication: Problems finding the right words. 
  • Memory issues: Regularly forgetting recent events, names, and faces.
  • Mental confusion: Not sure of the date or time of day. 
  • Misplacing objects: Regularly losing items or putting them in odd places. 
  • Mood and behaviour: Some people become low in spirit, anxious or irritable and experience a loss of self-confidence.
  • Repetition: Becoming increasingly repetitive, e.g. repeating the same question over again or repeating behaviours and routines.

Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, meaning symptoms will worsen over time. Patients with Alzheimer’s will need more targeted support and assistance doing everyday tasks such as washing and dressing, crossing roads, shopping, cooking and cleaning, and will need an increasing amount of personal care as time goes on.

Practitioner Development UK Ltd provides various educational and training courses for health professionals and clinicians. We recommend the following course for medical professionals and allied health providers involved in managing elderly patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s. 

A60 The Elderly Patient with Dementia: A person-centred approach

This course is specifically designed to help healthcare assistants (HCAs) and support workers (HCSWs) that work with patients diagnosed with dementia. 

The course aims to give health professionals the practical tools and knowledge they need to support and manage challenges faced when dealing with an individual in a one-to-one situation.

The course will help participants to: 

  • Have a clearer understanding of what dementia is and how it affects the elderly.
  • Be more aware of the ageing process.
  • Discuss the application of critical strategies in caring for a person with dementia.
  • Review common treatments and management of dementia.

This is a one-day course with online participation. Early booking is recommended to secure your place on this popular course.