Understanding Each Stage of Alzheimer's
When we hear the word Dementia, we can’t help but feel the worry that comes with the term. This condition, which includes Alzheimer’s Disease, is responsible for loss of memory and cognitive ability, and affects more than 6 million Americans.
We haven’t cured Alzheimer’s yet, but there is a greater understanding of the disease today, allowing caregivers to educate themselves and take more control over their loved ones’ health and aging process.
The first step for any caregiver is understanding the stages of Alzheimer’s– early, middle, and late– and the symptoms associated with each.
As the disease progresses through these stages, understanding how your role will change is imperative to providing the right care.
In the early stage of Alzheimer’s, a person still functions independently, and symptoms may not be widely apparent. This is the stage where you may start to notice the early warning signs, such as:
During the early stage, the main role for you as the caregiver is emotional support.
Middle-stage Alzheimer’s is typically the longest stage and can last for many years. During this stage, symptoms are more pronounced. Your loved one may confuse words, get frustrated or angry, and act in unexpected ways, such as refusing to bathe. Damage to nerve cells in the brain may also make it difficult for them to express thoughts and perform routine tasks without assistance. Those in the middle stage can still participate in daily activities, but the level of care they need increases.
During the middle stage, the main role for you as the caregiver is to provideincreased attention to your loved one.
In late-stage Alzheimer’s, dementia symptoms are severe. Individuals lose the ability to respond to their environment, to carry on a conversation and, eventually, to control movement. They may still say words or phrases, but communicating becomes difficult. As memory and cognitive skills continue to worsen, extensive care is needed.
In the late stage, your role as the caregiver is to preserve your loved one’s quality of life and dignity.
Other Helpful Tips
With Alzheimer’s diagnoses increasing, educating yourself about the signs and symptoms and understanding care requirements is now more important than ever. While it can feel paralyzing to receive this diagnosis, have a family member receive this diagnosis, or even approach the age when diagnosis is most common, information and support is out there.
For immediate support or to learn more, contact your local Alzheimer’s Association through their 24/7 Helpline at 800-272-3900 or visiting ALZ.org.
Brittany Haile is a volunteer for the Alzheimer's Association San Diego/Imperial. After experiencing first-hand the effects of her grandfather’s Alzheimer’s Disease diagnosis, Brittany dedicates her time to help raise awareness to find a cure.
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