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TRANSITIONS: THE STAGES OF ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE & BEHAVIOR
CHANGES. WHAT TO EXPECT AT EACH STAGE

Alzheimer's is a sneaky disease that develops over time causing changes in the brain that affect the person's memory, thinking, behavior, ability to care for himself and even the capacity to enjoy participating in everyday activities he or she once enjoyed.

Many families are committed to caring for their older parent at home. They firmly believe that they can give their mother or father the best care possible. An estimated 5.3 million older Americans have been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Many of these individuals live in their own homes or those of relatives and are cared for by their relatives.

Understanding of the signs and symptoms of each stage of Alzheimer's disease can help caregivers explore strategies they can use to make the best life possible for their ill parent and for themselves. It will also help them make decisions about their relative's care as the disease progresses.

If you suspect that an older family member may be suffering from a memory disorder consider keeping a diary of his symptoms. You can share this diary with the doctor to help determine if your parent has Alzheimer's or is suffering from another treatable cause of memory loss.

Here are common behaviors and physical and mental changes that occur in each stage of Alzheimer's. Because every person is different your parent may not experience all behaviors listed here.

EARLY STAGE: MILD
May last for 2-4 years or longer

MIDDLE STAGE: MODERATE
May last for 2-10 years

LATE STAGE: SEVERE
May last for 1-3 years

CARING FOR THE CAREGIVER
Providing hands-on daily care to a person with Alzheimer's disease can be a challenging, exhausting, emotional, but often rewarding experience for family caregivers. Learning all that you can about this disease will help you and other family members provide the best possible care for your older parent or relative.

It is also important for you to learn to take care of yourself — to "share the care" with other family members and friends, so you can take a well-earned break from your caregiving responsibilities.