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
- Asks the same questions repeatedly
- Has difficulty following conversations
- Can't remember people's names or recent events
- Experiences sudden mood or behavior changes
- Has trouble concentrating, planning or organizing
- Gets lost while driving in familiar neighborhoods
- Misplaced items in odd places: putting car keys in the refrigerator
MIDDLE STAGE: MODERATE
May last for 2-10 years
- For gets to turn off the stove, iron or other appliances
- Forgets to take medications
- Has difficulty planning meals, paying bills, shopping for groceries
- Has trouble reading or writing
- Becomes restless and agitated at night; often oversleeps or is unable to sleep
- Experiences hallucinations or delusions
LATE STAGE: SEVERE
May last for 1-3 years
- Little or no memory remains
- Needs assistance with eating, bathing and other activities of daily living
- Difficulty speaking and understanding words
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
- Unable to recognize family members
- Susceptible to infections
- Weight loss
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.