Caring for the Different Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease
March 29 2022
For aging seniors and their loved ones, getting diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease can be overwhelming and scary. Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia, which entails a progressive loss of memory and other important mental functions. As time goes on, Alzheimer's patients remember less and become increasingly confused as their brain cell connections and cells degenerate.
Dementia caused by Alzheimer’s affects millions of Americans every year, with the majority being over the age of 65 years old. This disease changes in severity as it moves through different stages, ranging from mild to severe. When it comes to providing care, it is important for caregivers and loved ones to understand what kind of support is needed during each stage.
So how can caregivers support Alzheimer’s patients through the various stages of this disease? Keep reading to learn more and better understand the type of care needed as Alzheimer’s evolves.
During the early stages of Alzheimer’s, people are still able to function on their own. This means a high level of independence when it comes to daily tasks such as driving, working, or attending social gatherings. This early stage of the disease can actually last for years and requires a different kind of support than later stages.
For caregivers and loved ones, it is very important to provide their time and support during this period. When diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, people need help planning for their future and long-term care needs. This can include financial and legal planning to ensure the person will be taken care of as the disease gets worse.
Caregivers can also keep an eye on how much assistance may be needed as the early stage progresses. This support can mean helping the person be as independent as possible while also learning to depend on others for certain things. Be sure to keep communication as open and healthy as possible, while focusing on safety first when providing care.
As Alzheimer’s progresses from the early to middle stage, caregiving needs tend to become bigger. Middle-stage Alzheimer’s can last for many years and is usually the longest of all stages. During this time, brain damage starts to affect a person’s thoughts and makes it increasingly difficult to carry out basic tasks. For example, a person with middle-stage Alzheimer’s may have a hard time communicating verbally or getting dressed by themselves.
For caregivers, it is important to remain patient and flexible during this stage of the disease. As an Alzheimer’s patient’s abilities continue to diminish, caregivers will see their responsibilities increase. This can mean added caregiving in the areas of eating, dressing, grooming, and transportation.
Alzheimer’s patients may become too vulnerable to leave alone and additional safety precautions may need to be taken. Caregivers will also need to keep an eye out for changes in behavior, attitude, and communication. It’s a good idea to focus on patience, calming support, and repetition during the middle stage of Alzheimer’s disease.
During late-stage Alzheimer’s, the disease progresses to an intense period that requires constant care. This stage of Alzheimer’s could last anywhere from a few weeks to a few years. As brain cells continue to deteriorate, a person with late-stage Alzheimer’s will find it quite difficult to eat, walk, and generally care for themselves through basic tasks. They also become quite vulnerable to different types of infections, including pneumonia.
Caregivers in late-stage Alzheimer’s should focus on helping the person diagnosed live as high of a quality of life as possible. They can also help ensure the person with late-stage Alzheimer’s is eating well and staying nourished. Support will also be needed with bowel movements, skincare, and general body care.
Although communication may decline significantly, it may still be possible to connect with the person diagnosed through the five senses. For example, Alzheimer’s patients can respond positively to their favorite music, old pictures, preferred foods, and familiar scents.
As you can see, Alzheimer’s disease has various stages that demand different support from caregivers. Over time, caregiving needs will rise as the person diagnosed with Alzheimer’s sees more deterioration in their mental and physical capabilities. Thankfully, caregivers can prepare themselves by learning more about the different stages of Alzheimer’s and better understanding what lies ahead. Through proper planning and support, Alzheimer’s patients can improve their quality of life as dementia progresses over time.
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