If you’re the spouse or relative of someone who has recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, you may have questions and concerns as you start to encounter the symptoms. Knowledge of the disease and what to expect as it progresses can go a long way to alleviating your worries. Here are some helpful details every loved one of someone living with Alzheimer’s disease should know.
The stages of Alzheimer’s disease
Alzheimer’s disease progresses through 7 distinct stages. The first 3 stages are the pre-dementia stages. Stages 4 through 7 are the dementia stages. Stage 5 when a person can no longer live without assistance.
Understanding the early stages
When someone close to you – be it your spouse, parent, another relative, or a dear friend – is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia, it can be a bewildering time. It’s natural to feel a mix of emotions: concern, confusion, and maybe even a bit of denial. According to the Alzheimer’s Association (www.alz.org), early-stage Alzheimer’s disease can manifest in subtle ways, or even have no visible symptoms at all, so it’s essential to know what to expect.
In these early stages, your loved one might still be very independent. They may still drive, work, and engage in social activities. However, they might also start experiencing memory lapses, such as forgetting familiar words or the location of everyday items. It’s important to recognize these signs as part of the condition, and not just typical forgetfulness.
When the middle stages arrive and bring clear signs of moderate cognitive decline and mild dementia, it is at this point that a diagnosis can be made with a high degree of accuracy. It is also at this point in the disease’s progression that the need for memory care becomes pressing.
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Practical advice for caregivers
- Educate yourself: Learn as much as you can about Alzheimer’s disease. The Alzheimer’s Association’s website is a rich resource. Understanding the disease helps in managing expectations and preparing for the journey ahead.
- Communication is key: As you navigate this phase, keep communication open and simple. Avoid correcting your loved one every time they forget something. Instead, focus on the feelings behind their words.
- Establish a routine: Routines can be comforting for someone with Alzheimer’s disease. Try to keep daily activities consistent and predictable.
- Provide a safe environment: Make sure their living environment is safe. This might mean removing rugs to prevent trips and falls or installing locks in certain areas.
- Legal and financial planning: It’s crucial to discuss and plan for the future. This includes legal, financial, and care decisions. It might be uncomfortable, but it’s important to do this while your loved one can still participate in the discussions.
- Take care of yourself: Caregiving can be challenging. Remember to take breaks, seek support from friends, family, or support groups, and take care of your own health.
Emotional support and empathy
Remember, Alzheimer’s disease affects each person differently. Your loved one might experience mood swings, confusion, and frustration. It’s vital to approach these changes with empathy. Try to imagine how it feels to lose the grip on memories that once defined your life. Be patient, offer support, and listen.
Encourage them in the things they still enjoy and can do. Whether it’s a walk in the park, listening to music, or gardening, these activities can provide joy and a sense of normalcy.
Facing Alzheimer’s disease in a loved one isn’t easy. It’s a journey that requires patience, empathy, and a lot of love. Remember, you’re not alone in this. Resources like the Alzheimer’s Association can offer guidance and support. By understanding what to expect and how to prepare, you can make this journey a little more manageable, both for your loved one and for yourself.
To learn more about memory care, check out our free ebook, Just the Facts: Your Guide to Memory Care. See Sinceri Senior Living’s Meaningful Moments® memory care program for yourself – schedule a tour at a community near you.