The Four A’s of Alzheimer’s

The Four A’s of Alzheimer’s

March 15, 2024 | Health

The Four A’s of Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s is a disease that touches the lives of millions. Just like the rest of our bodies, our brains also change with age, but Alzheimer’s is not necessarily an expected part of aging. For those who experience it, memory, thinking process, and behavioral skills undergo changes. Though there may not be a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, when we take the time to understand the aspects of it, it can become easier to manage and make life better for those affected.  

Have you ever heard of the “Four A’s of Alzheimer’s?” Amnesia, aphasia, apraxia, and agnosia make up the different groups of which Alzheimer’s symptoms can fall under. Understanding the four A’s can be beneficial in identifying the onset or progression of the disease and help people learn how to best support loved ones going through this experience.

1. Amnesia

Memory loss, known as amnesia, is typically the first sign of Alzheimer’s disease. It usually begins with occasional forgetfulness and later progresses to affect long-term memories. Individuals may struggle to remember recent events, important dates, or even the names of close family and friends. There are two types of Alzheimer’s amnesia to be aware of:

  • Retrograde Amnesia is a type of memory loss that makes people unable to recall past experiences, memories, or information that was collected and stored before the onset of Alzheimer’s.
  • Anterograde Amnesia is memory loss that affects events or information occurring after the start of Alzheimer’s. It disrupts the ability to form new memories or recall new things.

This lapse in memory can be stressful for both the person experiencing amnesia and their loved ones. By taking the time to understand Alzheimer’s amnesia, the potential challenges it may have can become more manageable. Small initiatives such as promoting physical activity, ensuring proper sleep, and eating balanced and nutritious meals go a long way in improving cognitive function.

2. Aphasia

Aphasia refers to communication difficulties, like trouble speaking, understanding, reading, and writing. It can be split into two types:

  • Expressive Aphasia – finding the right words or saying them accurately becomes a challenge.
  • Receptive Aphasia – understanding and interpreting language is difficult.

Alzheimer’s disease affects both expressive and receptive aphasia. In the early stages, one may struggle to string words together or find the right ones to say. As it progresses, talking may become more confusing, making it hard to be understood. In this case, non-verbal communication becomes very important when interacting with someone experiencing aphasia. Simple gestures like reassuring your loved one with a smile show that you’re there to support them.

3. Apraxia

Apraxia occurs when a person has trouble with their voluntary motor skills or making purposeful movements rather. While Alzheimer’s is mostly known for affecting thinking and memory abilities, it also affects how the body moves. As Alzheimer’s introduces more changes, it can become harder to do everyday things like getting dressed, walking around, and eating. Such simple tasks that were once routine may now need assistance or supervision.

For people with Alzheimer’s, these changes can cause falls and injuries to be more common. Encouraging a loved one to stay active, even in simple ways, might be able to slow down the physical problems that are linked to Alzheimer’s apraxia.

4. Agnosia

Agnosia means having trouble receiving or understanding information from your senses like hearing, smell, taste, touch, and sight. People with Alzheimer’s might struggle to recognize smells, and familiar faces, or the ability to interpret different sounds. It can be overwhelming when feeling like everything has become strange and unrecognizable.

 It is essential to give comfort and support as your loved one experiences these changes. Consider creating a familiar environment with friendly mementos, helping them maintain a manageable routine, and using multi-sensory cues to support recognition. This could look like describing what an object looks like, how it is used, and a memory associated with it.

If you’re beginning to notice changes in a loved one, it may be time to reach out to a healthcare provider or support group to get the guidance you both need. Visit The Pathways at Warrington’s website to assess your loved one and their needs and review potential symptoms. For additional information during regular office hours, call Michelle DiVincenzo at 215-593-2900. Our community is always here to give you and your loved one the support you need.

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