One of the first things you can do when you discover a family member has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease is arm yourself with as much information about the disease as possible. This will allow you to provide effective care to your loved one in this critical time. To help you ease your anxiety, we have summarized the 7 stages of Alzheimer’s disease and have compiled a list of tips to help you care for your loved one.
Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease
An individual in the first stage of Alzheimer’s disease will display minimal or no symptoms of dementia. The disease progresses in the brain years before moderate to severe side effects start to appear in daily life. Although it may be impossible for a family member to diagnose a loved one in the first stage of the disease, a brain scan can be performed by a doctor to help diagnose issues.
Diagnosing Alzheimer’s in this early phase requires a licensed medical professional. The mild symptoms of the disease at this stage will not interfere with your loved one’s ability to live an independent life or maintain a job. On the other hand, your family member may start to notice small issues such as losing items or difficulty with articulation in social settings.
Once a person transitions to the third stage of Alzheimer’s disease, you will start to notice cognitive changes. Your mother or father may start to ask you the same question over and over. In addition, an individual in this phase of dementia may have difficulty planning events, social gatherings, or organizing the living space. Your loved one may encounter other symptoms such as issues with recollecting the names of new people and difficulty remembering things that were read in books or magazines or seen on television.
The symptoms that were discussed in the third stage of the disease will start to become evident in this phase. Your loved one may start to struggle to assemble recipes that contain a large number of steps and ingredients. In addition, an individual may have issues reading and analyzing menus at restaurants. Your mother or father may start to encounter issues with operating various types of electronic devices such as a smartphone, television, or tablet when they used to be able to do it with ease.
Other ordinary symptoms that can manifest in the fourth phase of dementia include difficulty signing a check, transferring money into different accounts, remembering the month it is, and comprehending things that are said in conversations. Depending on the physical and mental condition of your loved one, it may become necessary to eliminate their driving privileges. In addition, you will need to help your family member monitor and maintain bills, finances, investments, and retirement accounts.
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An individual will start to lose their independence when the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease become severe. To help your family member maintain a level of dignity and independence, there are various ways for caregivers to make daily tasks easier. For example, a caregiver may decide to organize the ingredients for lunch or dinner in an intuitive manner in a loved one’s fridge. Organizing the ingredients of simple meals will make it easier for a loved one to prepare a meal on their own.
This will help your family member maintain their confidence and dignity. In addition, a caregiver can make it easier for a loved one to get dressed independently in the morning by laying out an outfit the night before. Although your loved one may not remember new details or facts, it’s important for caregivers to allow the individual to tell stories and recollect events from their childhood. Giving a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease time to recollect past events can help sharpen their mental skills and memory.
If your loved one is able to recognize people’s faces but cannot remember names, this is a sign they have transitioned into a late stage of Alzheimer’s disease. For example, your family member may ask to speak with their wife, husband, or relative that has passed away years ago. While it can be hard to carry a conversation with an individual in the sixth phase of dementia, you can connect with them by listening to the radio, viewing old photos, listening to music, watching television, or reading a book. As the symptoms of Alzheimer’s progress, your loved one may struggle to eat without assistance, swallow, bathe, ambulate, or get dressed.
When a loved one reaches the final stage of dementia, they will be completely reliant on a caregiver to eat, manage medications, bathe, communicate, and drink. A caregiver will need to provide the family member with soft and easy-to-swallow foods. In addition, a large number of individuals with Alzheimer’s will lose their ability to determine when they are thirsty or dehydrated. To prevent medical issues, a caregiver will need to provide their loved one with water several times a day.
If you determine that you cannot continue to care for your loved one at home while balancing other issues with your kids or job, it may be time to tour a dementia care assisted living community. The memory care experts at an Alzheimer’s care community and facility are specially trained to communicate and care for individuals with any stage of dementia.
Early-Stage of Alzheimer’s Disease
An individual in the early stage of Alzheimer’s disease may be capable of maintaining a career, driving, planning events, and traveling to different states or countries. In addition, a loved one in the early stages of Alzheimer’s may be able to clean, bathe, work in the yard, and live independently. However, the individual may start to encounter issues with short term memory, such as losing daily possessions. In addition, it is not abnormal for individuals with dementia to skip or forget words while speaking with others.
Although an individual in the early stage of Alzheimer’s may be unaware of their symptoms, a doctor has the knowledge and assessments necessary to diagnose an early stage of Alzheimer’s. A loved one in the earlier stages of Alzheimer’s may display symptoms such as difficulty completing tasks in distracting environments, forgetting data or facts that were read in a book or newspaper, encounter issues with planning, and recognizing the names of new people in social environments.
Middle-Stage of Alzheimer’s Disease
As an individual transitions to the middle-stage of Alzheimer’s disease, deterioration to nerve cells in the brain will cause enhanced symptoms. A parent in this stage of dementia may become angry at random times, display unpredictable behaviors, refuse to eat, and encounter issues with insomnia. The middle-stage of Alzheimer’s is typically the longest and it can take your family member years to progress towards the late stages of the disease.
Once the symptoms of a moderate stage of Alzheimer’s start to interfere with your loved one’s daily lifestyle, it may be time to consider transitioning to a memory care assisted living community. Your family member may start to lose their independence and forget information such as their neighborhood, phone number, or college they studied at. In addition, a loved one can start to forget past achievements, hobbies, events, and history.
Make Lifestyle Changes to Accommodate the Symptoms of the Middle-Stage of Alzheimer’s
If your mother or father is encountering the side effects of the middle-stage of Alzheimer’s, they may require additional assistance with bathing, chores, and daily events. Collaborate with your loved one to determine what they can do independently. To receive a mental or physical break, a caregiver may decide to enroll a loved one in memory respite care services. Dementia respite care services are designed to provide your family member with a safe environment while you take care of other areas of your life such as kids, projects, and household maintenance.
Moderate Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease
A family member progressing through the middle-stage of Alzheimer’s disease may start to wander or forget their location at night or during the day. In addition, your loved one may have a hard time choosing appropriate outfits and clothes to wear as the seasons change. Issues with bladder control can cause individuals with dementia to have accidents in the morning, afternoon, and night. As the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease worsen, a loved one may display behavior changes and start to become suspicious of other family members or acquaintances.
Late-Stage of Alzheimer’s Disease
An individual in the late-stage of Alzheimer’s disease will require 24 hour care with a caregiver or may need to be transitioned into a dementia care assisted living community. In addition, a family member will start to become unfamiliar with the surrounding environment and the people around them. Your mother or father may have difficulty discussing health issues or pain. Once the recollection and mental skills of your loved one start to decline, you may start to notice mood and personality changes. Your family member may begin to forget the names of their kids, grandchildren, or relatives.
Severe Physical Symptoms
As an individual navigates the side effects of Alzheimer’s disease, they will start to have trouble walking, sitting, laying down, and swallowing. In addition, your loved one will start to become more susceptible to infections such as pneumonia. Although a family member in the final stage of Alzheimer’s disease may not recognize you, it’s important to create a calm environment that eliminates triggers and anxiety. If your loved one is having a panic attack, a caregiver can play therapeutic music, a favorite television show, or read a book to alleviate the anxiety.
Ways to Diagnose Pain & Health Conditions
The duration of the late-stage of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia can vary from weeks, months, to a couple of years. As the communication skills of your loved one continue to decline, it can become difficult or impossible for them to articulate pain. The top indicators of pain include swelling, irritated skin, mouth or gum infections, and a faded skin tone. In addition, a sign of pain includes groaning or shaking as an individual moves from a sitting position to standing or walking. If your family member has an exasperated facial expression as they transition from the bed to a chair or other area of the living space, this can also be an indicator of pain.
How to Treat Infections
Clean Cuts & Injuries With Soap & Water
An individual with severe dementia will spend a majority of their time sitting or laying down to avoid accidents associated with walking or moving. Since your loved one spends a large amount of time sitting each day, they become more susceptible to infections. If you notice a cut or scab on your loved one’s arms or legs, clean the cut with soap and water. In addition, use an antibiotic ointment to ensure the cut or injury heals in a quick and healthy manner.
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Brush Your Loved One’s Teeth & Check For Oral Health Issues
Poor oral health can expose your loved one to medical conditions such as pneumonia. To prevent cavities or infections, you will need to brush the individual’s teeth at least twice a day. In addition, dentures need to be removed and sanitized once a day. As you are brushing your loved one’s teeth, inspect their gums and tongue for infections. When you are inspecting your family member’s gums, check for issues such as recession, cuts, or irritation.
Alzheimer’s & Dementia Care Services
Terra Vista is an Alzheimer’s and dementia care assisted living community in Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois that is dedicated to caring for individuals with various types of dementia. If you are struggling to care for a mother or father or loved one with Alzheimer’s, give our team a call at (630) 534-0886 or schedule a tour of our facility to become familiar with our memory care programs. The staff at our memory care assisted living community provide innovative activities to residents in a safe environment that promote independence and confidence.
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