Alzheimer's disease is a disorder of the brain that causes memory loss, changes in personality and a gradual loss of independence. It is the most common type of dementia and is progressive through three main stages of symptoms. Unfortunately, the disease cannot be cured, so the treatment focus is on slowing the process.
While not considered a true stage of Alzheimer's, during the preclinical stage the individual experiences changes to brain structure without any outward symptoms of the condition. This time period can last for years until enough changes have occurred in the brain to trigger symptoms of the disease. During this time, the client has no memory impairment and no sign of dementia.
During the next stage, called mild or early-stage Alzheimer's disease, your loved one may exhibit mild forgetfulness that you may interpret as a natural part of aging. However, there may be a difficulty with concentration. Although your loved one may still live alone, they could have difficulty remembering names, making plans, staying organized, managing their money or recalling recent events. Your loved one is often aware of these memory lapses and will notice their friends and family have also seen these difficulties. This can be a very frustrating time for them, and it is helpful for you to understand their frustration and not take any anger personally. Instead, ask how you may help ease any stress in their lives and help them to get their legal and financial affairs in order.
During the moderate or middle stage of Alzheimer's disease, your loved one has increasing trouble remembering events and will also have difficulty learning new tasks. They'll have trouble planning an event, such as making dinner and maybe even remembering their own name. However, they will continue to remember details about their own life from distant memory, such as their address and phone number.
This stage of the disease usually lasts years and becomes increasingly progressive. Your loved one may lose track of time and place and begins to exhibit personality changes. They may become moody or withdrawn or demonstrate hallucinations or delusions. You may find behavior changes are greatest in the late afternoon or during the night hours when they can become more restless, agitated or tearful. Remain supportive of your loved one during this time as their behavior changes are not purposeful. They have no control over the way that they're acting and are just as frustrated as you with what's happened in their life.
In the late stage of Alzheimer's disease, symptoms become severe. Many lose control of their bowel and bladder and their ability to have a conversation. Your loved one may be able to say some words or phrases but will not be able to speak in full sentences and will likely lose many physical abilities as well, including the ability to walk and eat.
During the middle and late stages of Alzheimer’s disease, your loved one will be unable to live alone or care for themselves. This is a very difficult time for you and your family.
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Although it may be difficult to ask for help, at Harmony we are well equipped to help you manage your loved one’s care and their progressive illness. Contact us today so we can share with you how to take some of the stress and allow you to spend more quality time with your loved one.