Chances are you have heard of dementia. What you might not know is the most common form of dementia is called Alzheimer’s. This memory debilitating disease accounts for over 60% of cases of dementia and is specifically caused by abnormal proteins killing brain cells. Its symptoms develop gradually and worsen as time goes on.
According to Alzheimers.net, Alzheimer’s disease can be categorized into 7 stages. These 7 stages describe the current functions and capabilities of those with this illness. Each stage describes the rate of decline, along with the challenges and disabilities encountered during that period. Throughout these stages of Alzheimer’s, there are always ways to keep your loved one active, happy and healthy with the current situation.
Below is a more in-depth look at each stage, separated into three general categories. We will review things you can do with your loved one in each stage to stay active and maintain a relationship with them.
With the early stages of Alzheimer’s, the first three classifications of decline are:
1. No impairment
a. No symptoms or warning signs.
2. Very mild decline
a. Notice minor memory problems, but nothing that can be detected as anything more than the common aging process.
3. Mild Decline
a. May start noticing memory and cognitive problems.
b. Has problems finding the right words to say, remembering names of people they meet, trouble planning and organizing.
In the beginning, it can be very hard to narrow down these issues to being the effect of Alzheimer’s disease. Seniors may still be active, before or after the diagnosis, in the day to day things they enjoy. The best thing to do is encourage your loved one to stay active and maintain good health and well-being. You can do this by reassuring them and giving reminders when needed to keep on the path in doing what they want to independently. It is also great to encourage other people to spend time with your loved one and do fun, stimulating activities. This can be as simple as going for a walk, having a thoughtful conversation or playing games like puzzles.
4. Moderate Decline
a. Symptoms are now apparent of Alzheimer’s Disease.
b. May not remember details of their own past, poor short-term memory and inability to do tasks such as finances.
5. Moderately Severe Decline
a. Patients will need assistance with day to day activities.
b. Experience confusion, trouble remembering intricate details and have a hard time getting dressed appropriately.
In this stage, cognitive and functional ability starts to deteriorate more and more. The amount of care needed for the patient starts to become more apparent. This is when the family should start to consider options for different types of care. Whether that be taking on the caregiving responsibilities themselves, having a 24-hour care provider or a respite care service provider come in when needed. This is considered as the longest part of the journey with this horrible disease. Finding ways to make it more enjoyable can make a critical difference in the lives of all involved. This can include things like exercising, painting or really any activities your loved one enjoys that you can do together.
6. Severe Decline
a. During this stage, those affected will require constant supervision and may require frequent professional care.
b. Symptoms are lack of awareness of their surroundings, personality changes and wandering.
7. Very Severe Decline
a. This is the final stage of Alzheimer’s disease, and those in this stage are nearing death.
b. The patient has lost the ability to respond to any form of communications, and are not aware of their current situation or surroundings.
While the late stages of Alzheimer’s can be devastating, the focal point should still be to preserve the life and dignity of your loved one. While they may be in a state where they cannot recognize their surroundings, researchers say that many may still be there at their core. Spending time with your loved one nearing the end with this disease is important to them, as much as it is to you. There are still many things that can be done, aside from all the basic care that is needed. Music therapy has shown to have a huge impact on seniors with this disease who are in the middle or later stages. Music creates somewhat of a workout for the brain, stimulating the motor center of the brain that responds directly to auditory rhythmic cues. This can create positive benefits for emotions and mental well-being of the patient. There are many other stimulating things you can do with your loved one. This can include brushing their hair, applying lotion with a nice scent to it, looking at photos and sitting outside on a nice day.
No matter what stage of Alzheimer’s your loved one is in, they will require love and care throughout their whole journey. If you would like to see how we can be a helping hand in that journey, we are available anytime to help you take the next step in receiving care for your loved one struggling with Alzheimer’s. Contact us by calling (802) 231-0415.