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Can a person with Alzheimer's get better?

Alzheimer’s is not curable. In the mild and moderate stages, symptoms seem to disappear in some cases. Signs of the condition progress at different rates. Medication can slow down the progression of the disease.

Last Tuesday I brought lunch to my grandparents. Both were sitting at the table next to the spacious window. My grandmother greeted me by name. But, my grandpa looked at me like I was a stranger.

Then, he continued reading the headlines in the latest newspapers.

Just a few pages later, he looked at me and called me by name.

Could it be that he is getting better? Could it be that he is recovering?

Table of Content
How Alzheimer’s seems to come and go
How to deal with the “bad days” of Alzheimer’s
A word from the Author
List of Resources
About the Author

How Alzheimer’s seems to come and go

Alzheimer’s seems to affect individuals differently. Some have a rapid decline. Others do not. Especially people with mild Alzheimer’s seem to have good and bad days. The good days might be mistaken for a recovery.

However, there is nothing like a recovery from Alzheimer’s.

There are five considerations why a beloved one with Alzheimer’s seems to get better.

Why does someone with Alzheimer’s seems to get better?
5 Examples
1. Early stage of Alzheimer’s: Memory and cognitive problems may be present one day, but gone the other day. The same accounts for confusion with time and place. For family members, it can seem like an improvement when all of this is accompanied by normal behavior.
2. Other medical conditions: A common comorbid condition is a depression when suffering from Alzheimer’s. Thus, emotional stages like feeling fatigue can be caused by it, too. Once the depression is treated it might seem like Alzheimer’s improves. However, this perception is sadly wrong.
3. Alzheimer’s medications: Five drugs are approved by the FDA to treat the condition. Some individuals respond favorably to them. Especially in the early and moderate stages. Again, those medications prolong the stage, but, they do not cure the disease.
4. Intake of other medication: Antidepressants are known to create a happy mood. Taking those types of medication might be mistaken as an improvement of Alzheimer’s disease. Especially, in the cases of extreme anger and fatigue. Anti-anxiety drugs or antipsychotics can create effects that should be seen with precaution.
5. Behavior strategies: Alzheimer’s patients sometimes develop strategies to fool other people into thinking that they are fine. Commonly used phrases are “If you say so!” or “I can’t hear what you say.” This way allows them to switch the topic swiftly.

It is hard to distinguish what is normal and what is not. Good days are part of the progression. Bad days are part of it, too.

The important point is to not create false hope.

Enjoy the good days with your beloved one. Appreciate them.

And what’s left is how to deal with the bad days.

How to deal with the “bad days” of Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s is one of the most challenging conditions. Not only for the patient but also for the caregiver. Behavioral mood changes make it difficult to take proper care of a patient.

In my article “How to talk to someone with Alzheimer’s” I explained two approaches on how to deal with obstacles of the disease.

The most important thing is the mindset when taking care of the patient. The goal is to create an atmosphere of comfort and safety. Even in cases of mood changes.

Imagine the following scenario.

The Alzheimer’s patient is bursting out and screams that someone stole his wallet. Because the patient is admitted to a nursing home, there are no wallets.

You could try to prove that you are right, which would only prove you are a fool. :) Alzheimer’s patients are always right, even if they don’t. (Basic rule number one)

Rather try this approach:

Agree to the fact that the wallet is stolen. Then, offer you help in searching for it.

It might look like a waste of time to you. However, it is not. This way the patient feels valued and listened to. Something that keeps their self-worth intact.

A word from the Author

So there you go. I hope the article was not written to pessimistic for your taste. However, I hope you and your beloved one will have many more good days to share.

Otherwise, try to be calm and polite during the bad days.

I always joke that Alzheimer’s is the ultimate commitment. Even compared to marriage.

The good days in a marriage are almost as important as the good days with a beloved one with Alzheimer's. But, just almost. :)

List of Resources

Patric Pförtner

B. Sc. Psychology

Hi, my name is Patric Pfoertner and I graduated 2020 from the NBU. Currently, I work and study in Germany. My specialisations are Cognitive Psychology paired with a good slack of Clinical Psychology. Just this year I started publishing my research in the CBB Journal. Feel free to read about it at ResearchGate. Otherwise, click the other button to read my full CV.

About Author ResearchGate

P.S.: I am available for psychological consultation, too.