When your loved one is suffering from a type of dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease, you know how it affects his or her ability to think, remember and reason.

Whether you’re noticing small changes in a loved one or have been witnessing these changes over months, there are tools and resources to help. Alzheimer’s and dementia progress over time and begin to impact your loved one’s quality of life and affect their abilities.

The Alzheimer’s Association outlines the stages of the disease:

Mild Alzheimer’s disease (early stage)

Your loved one may still be able to function independently, continuing to drive, work and take part in social events.

He or she may begin to have memory lapses such as:

  • Coming up with the correct word or name
  • Forgetting something that was read recently
  • Losing or misplacing objects
  • Trouble with planning or organizing

Moderate Alzheimer’s disease (middle stage)

This is typically the longest stage and can last many years. During this time, you may notice your loved one becoming frustrated or angry over the changes in his/her ability. He or she may completely change behavior from what is normal.

You may notice:

  • Forgetfulness about events or personal history and information
  • Confusion about the day and time
  • Trouble deciding on dress or personal hygiene
  • Increased risk of wandering or becoming lost
  • Personality changes such as becoming moody, withdrawn, suspicious, compulsive or delusional

Severe Alzheimer’s disease (late stage)

In the final stage of the disease, communication is typically very difficult and ability is limited. Your loved one may not be able to tell you when he/she is in pain and may need assistance even with smaller tasks.

Your loved one may:

  • Need around-the-clock assistance with personal care
  • Require high levels of assistance with daily activities
  • Lose awareness of experiences and their surroundings
  • Have decreased physical abilities and become prone to infections, especially pneumonia

It’s important to know you can ask for help caring for your loved one at any stage of the disease progression. Know that you’re are not alone, and while this is difficult, support is available. Dementia affects one in eight people over age 65, and nearly half of people over the age of 85. Age is the biggest driver of Alzheimer's, though other factors also increase the risk of dementia, such as obesity, diabetes, and high cholesterol.

These tips can help you provide care for your loved one who is in the early stages of living with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia:

  • Be positive and concentrate on the things your loved one can do instead of things that have become too difficult
  • Keep a sense of humor
  • Offer choices when you ask a question so your loved one feels independent, but keep the options at two to three; too many choices can make it difficult for people living with dementia to make a decision, which increases frustration and indecisiveness
  • Encourage your loved one to tell people about his or her dementia, and not to be embarrassed to ask to have things repeated or explained again
  • Tell your loved one not to be afraid of asking for help and accepting it
  • Allow more time than you may need to complete tasks with your loved one so you don’t have to rush and increase anxiety or panic  
  • It’s OK to help your loved one with tasks that are too difficult
  • Avoid over-stimulation, as too much noise and activity, can create anxiety and confusion
  • Place a "cheat sheet" of personal information in your loved one’s purse or wallet (not including address) and the name of a person who can be contacted if your loved one gets lost 
  • Make sure your loved one is eating well, exercising regularly and correctly taking prescribed medicines
  • Encourage your loved one to see friends and keep going out of the house

As Alzheimer’s disease and dementia progress, your loved one may require more care. He or she may become frustrated with the changes in their abilities and you may see behavior changes. A typical treatment plan for all types of dementia is focused on maintaining your loved one’s independence and quality of life and fostering a safe environment.

Types of care could include:

  • Ongoing evaluation of your loved one’s health condition
  • Education on medication regimens for you and your loved one
  • Strategies for behavior and stress management
  • Physical, occupational or speech therapy
  • Social services which can connect you to community support groups 

At Kindred, we provide clinicians who have experience working with dementia patients and their families – clinicians who truly understand the unique symptoms, struggles and challenges you and your loved one face.

Like many diseases, the key to treatment is an early diagnosis. When you identify your symptoms early, you will be able to:

  • Gain access to information, resources, and support
  • Maximize your quality of life
  • Benefit from treatments
  • Plan for the future
  • Explain to your family, friends, and colleagues what has changed in your life

It is never too early to plan ahead. When you are caring for a loved one with dementia, you need time for activities you enjoy and to attend to your health. Make time for yourself, see your physician and schedule activities with friends. Avoiding caregiver burnout is critical for long-term care.

View the Alzheimer Association 2018 Disease Facts and Figures here.   

By Kindred at Home