At the Senior Care Society we understand how earth shattering it can seem when you have received a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease from your loved one’s physician, but we are here to help. An Alzheimer’s diagnosis does not necessarily mean you will not be able to care for your loved one at home, but you must be prepared. The good news in this is that there is a lot of support and resource information available to you right here, the Senior Care Society is here to help you navigate your way through caring for your loved one at home or in finding the right skilled nursing home.
There are particular steps suggested that one should take in order to be as prepared as possible for the challenges that lie ahead for you and your loved one. The first step is in getting the diagnosis and then in fully understanding what stage of Alzheimer’s or related dementia your loved one is in. Educating yourself on the disease is very important and will help you to recognize and understand the progressive stages of the disease, thus helping you to cope and prepare for the challenges each phase the disease presents you with.
The Senior Care Society strongly recommends that as well as reading our related articles on Alzheimer’s found here, you contact your local Alzheimer’s Association Support Groups. Below we have listed the 7 stages of Alzheimer’s for a better understanding of what to expect with each stage. Every home and environment is different, but understanding what problems each stage may present will help you to know with what and when you will need to safe proof your home for Alzheimer’s.
Stage 1: Normal Appearing Functions - There are no signs of impairment or memory loss and the patient shows no sign of dementia during their interview with their medical professional. Functions are still normal.
Stage 2: Very Mild Cognitive Losses - Symptoms that may be dismissed as age related lapses may be the first signs of Alzheimer’s disease such as forgetting familiar words and misplacing items, but there are still no indications of dementia during medical examinations or noticeable indicators by family or friends.
Stage 3: Mild Cognitive Declines – Family members and friends may begin to notice some of the following symptoms, or during a thorough medical exam doctors may detect problems with memory or concentration. Here are some of the common stage 3 symptoms:
- Difficulty in finding words or names.
- Inability to recall someone’s name after introduction.
- Inability to recall something just read. Family or friends see a noticeable difficulty in performing usual tasks in work or a social setting.
- An increase in difficulty with organizing or planning.
- Misplaced or lost items of value
Stage 4: Moderate Cognitive Losses (early stage Alzheimer’s) – In this phase of the disease a careful medical examination should detect clear-cut signs and symptoms in numerous areas:
- Cannot recall current or recent events. Forgetfulness.
- Inability or impairment in performing challenging mental math; i.e. counting backwards from 100 by 7’s.
- Increased problems with performing routine complex tasks; i.e. handling bill paying, management of finances, planning a dinner party for friends.
- Difficulty recalling one’s own personal life or history.
- Noticeable moody change (permanent) or withdrawn, in particular in social or mentally challenging circumstances.
It is important to note that each phase of Alzheimer’s while distinct, may also overlap or vary from one person to the next.
Stage 5: Moderately Severe Cognitive Decline – ( Mid-Stage Alzheimer’s) Very clear memory lapses and gaps, Alzheimer’s patients will need assistance with daily functions which may include the following:
- Unable to recite common information such as address or telephone number, where they graduated from or what year and the like common knowledge things.
- Confusion as to where they are or which day it is.
- Difficulty with less complex math problems; i.e. counting backwards from 20 by 2’s.
- Difficulty with making appropriate clothing choices; i.e. warm clothes for winter.
- Able to control bowel/toilet functions. Patient is still able to eat on their own.
Stage 6: Severe Cognitive Digression: Mid-Stage or Moderately Severe Alzheimer’s – At this stage of the disease progression the person will have worsening memory lapses, personality changes may be obvious, and help with daily functions increase dramatically. At this point the person may experience:
- Loss of awareness of where they are/surroundings or recall/awareness of recent experiences.
- May still recall their own name but not really remember who they are, personal history.
- May have difficulty to remember the name of a caregiver or spouse, but still distinguish familiar and unfamiliar people.
- Require more assistance in dressing, may make mistakes such as putting two different shoes on, or on the wrong foot, putting inappropriate clothing on or in example putting pajamas on top of street clothing at bedtime.
- Changes in Sleep Patterns; may begin sleeping during the daytime hours and becoming restless at night.
- Require Assistance with Bathroom Functions; Needs help with wiping properly, properly disposing of toilet paper or flushing.
- Incontinence; Increasing difficulty in controlling bowel and urinary functions.
- Wandering or Getting Lost
- Severe Personality Changes; Person displays major behavior changes - i.e. has become delusional or suspicious (caretaker or spouse is an imposter) displays compulsive behavior such as rocking, handwringing or tearing tissues.
Stage 7: Very Severe Cognitive Decline; Late-Stage Alzheimer’s Disease – At this stage of the disease all daily functions require assistance; the person will have lost their ability to control movement, respond to the world around them or have a conversation (they may still utter words, phrases, or sounds). All of their personal care will need to be performed for them including eating, bathing and bathroom functions. The person may now be unable to sit without support, hold up their head, or smile. Swallowing becomes impaired, muscles become rigid and reflexes abnormal.
Senior Care Society is proud to have joined with the Alzheimer's Association as a member of the Alzheimer's Early Detection Alliance. As a member we are committed to educating everyone about the warning signs of Alzheimer's and the importance of early detection.
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