What is Retrogenesis?

And What Does it Have to do with Alzheimer’s Care?

Retrogenesis is a theory that suggests that the brain of a person with Alzheimer’s disease deteriorates in the reverse order that the brain developed from birth.   Part of the theory identifies particular stages, each one accompanied by predictable cognitive and functional levels.  For example, the cognitive and functional level of a person in the early stage starts out at about 11 years of age and over four to five years deteriorates to four years of age.  The middle stage, when most of the difficult behaviors occur, starts with a cognitive and functional level of four years of ages and deteriorates to two years, when the need for 24-hour care may be needed.   During the third and last stage the person can deteriorate to the functional level of a newborn.

This comparison to developmental stages in children is useful as a way of understanding the disease process, but it is imperative that caregivers always remember that the person is an adult and must be treated with the dignity he/she deserves and with the respect and consideration due a mature adult who has experienced all that life has given him/her.

Verna Benner Carson, Ph.D., in her article “Alzheimer’s Disease:  A Virtual Tsunami for Country—An Amazing Opportunity for Home Care” in a recent issue of Caring, Vol. XXX, No. 2, says, “A paid caregiver who is knowledgeable regarding the use of strategies to manage a broad range of challenging behaviors—agitation and aggression, resistance to care, wandering, and sexually inappropriate comments or advances, to name a few—will be worth his or her weight in gold to the family.”

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