Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia that can negatively affect memory, behavior and thinking. The disease can worsen over time and cause the victim’s health to digress, eventually leading to the death of the individual. Unfortunately, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s at the moment; however, care can be provided. Millions of people suffer from Alzheimer’s, which usually occurs in the later years of life.
Each person diagnosed with Alzheimer’s has a different experience. While everyone reacts differently as the disease progresses, there are common symptoms and stages that take place over a time frame of several years. The individual loses memory, has trouble finding words and feels disoriented. Decision making becomes difficult and personality and behavioral changes occur, as well.
The primary risk factors for Alzheimer’s include age, genetics and family history. Heart health should be promoted as well as taking care of blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and other issues to try and avoid a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. Early-onset of the disease can take place in individuals who are under the age of 65. This is often the case when there is a family history of the disease.
Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease
After a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is made, a doctor will provide information on the stages of it. They can be used as a general guideline to understand what will take place as the disease progresses. Understanding each stage can help you to stay alert and plan the appropriate care for yourself or loved ones. Do remember that every individual progresses differently, some faster than others.
Stage One: Mild/Early
This stage of Alzheimer’s lasts two to four years. The symptoms include frequent memory loss of recent events and conversations, repetition of questions, difficulty in expressing a problem or understanding language, coordination issues with writing, trouble using everyday items and behavioral changes. Depression can occur during this time, along with mood swings. An individual at this stage will need to be reminded of daily activities and will also no longer be able to drive.
Stage Two: Moderate/Middle
This stage of Alzheimer’s can last two to ten years. The individual will no longer be able to hide the problems they are facing. Consistent memory loss occurs at this stage, including having trouble remembering personal history and not being able to recognize friends or family. Speech may no longer make sense and confusion will occur in regards to events, time and place. The victim of the disease might feel lost in familiar surroundings and experience disturbances in their sleep. Mood changes, aggression and delusions can also occur. The individual will need to constantly be reminded of daily activities and may need assistance as well as more daily structure.
Stage Three: Severe/Late
This is the final stage that usually lasts one to three years or even longer. Confusion will begin to blur the past and present, and the patient will have trouble remembering, communicating and processing information. A severe or total loss of verbal skills can occur as well as having issues properly swallowing foods or liquids, incontinence and illness. At this point, the individual is unable to care for themselves and requires constant care.
Care Choices for Patients of Alzheimer’s
Finding the right care for an Alzheimer’s patient takes time. While some families choose to begin the initial stages of care themselves, others rely on professionals to care for their loved ones. From adult day care to in-home and residential care, several choices are provided so that a loved one will be given the proper attention they need.
Adult Day Care Center
An adult day care center allows Alzheimer’s patients to socialize with others and enjoy activities in a safe environment. Full-time caregivers can receive a break by taking the patient to day care, having professionals look after them. Individuals who suffer from Alzheimer’s will have to adjust to such programs but will soon hopefully enjoy spending time with others and participating in fun activities.
In-home care is a service option for Alzheimer’s patients who need various types of care. Companion services provide the individual with someone to visit with who can assist when needed. Personal care services include a caregiver offering bathing, dressing, eating, exercising and other activity assistance. Homemaker services offer assistance for everyday chores such as preparing meals, shopping or housekeeping. Skilled in-home care services provide the individual assistance with physical therapy, injections, treatment of wounds and more. Many times, the services are combined to for overall care of the patient.
This service type is for individuals who are in need of more care than can be provided at home or for patients who need a communal living environment. There are several types of residential care, offering the patient a personalized option for assistance. Retirement housing is one such care type providing individuals in the early stages of Alzheimer’s with assistance. Patients in this stage are still independent and can live alone safely but experience difficulties.
Assisted Living is a care type that combines the person’s independence with living in a nursing home-like atmosphere. Care is provided with a 24-hour staff who bring meals, assist with housekeeping, coordinate transportation, etc. An option for more extensive care is a nursing home, which provides care 24 hours a day seven days a week, along with long term medical treatment. For Alzheimer’s patients who are suffering in the stages of the disease, special care units are available. A patient in an SCU is grouped together with other patients who have Alzheimer’s or dementia. Specialized services are provided by trained staff members.
When an individual with Alzheimer’s is cared for by the family, respite care is an option for taking a break from the task. It can be very demanding to care for an individual with Alzheimer’s. With respite care, a professional comes into the home and provides a break to the family member who can then go run errands or just enjoy time to themselves or with friends.
The final stage of care that can assist an Alzheimer’s patient is hospice care. When a patient is reaching the end of life, hospice care provides comfort and dignity for the final days. Support services and care helps to manage pain and other symptoms the patient is experiencing. Specially trained individuals including doctors, nurses, social workers, home health aides and volunteers will provide expertise with Alzheimer’s so that the patient will be comfortable in the last days of their life.
With so many treatment resources available, an Alzheimer’s patient can receive the care they need. When you or a loved one have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, be sure to speak with care providers to find the best treatment service for the disease.