World Alzheimer's Month: What Caregivers Should Know

    caregiver and client

    Understanding the three stages of Alzheimer’s disease and how caregivers can help clients in each of these different stages.

    Alzheimer’s or Dementia?

    Alzheimer’s and dementia are often confused and used interchangeably, but they are different. Dementia is an umbrella term that refers to a list of different symptoms, one of those being brain and memory function. There are diseases other than Alzheimer’s which can cause dementia. When an individual is diagnosed with dementia, they are being diagnosed with a set of symptoms, without knowing what is specifically causing them. Some forms of dementia are temporary or reversible. Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia that specifically affects parts of the brain that control thought, memory and language. Symptoms of the disease include impaired thought, speech and confusion. Alzheimer’s is not reversible or curable.


    The 3 Stages of Alzheimer's

    Stage 1 | Mild Alzheimer's (Early Stage)

    In the early stages of Alzheimer’s, friends and family may start to notice their loved one experiencing difficulty remembering things such as familiar words or the location of everyday objects.

    Common symptoms include:

    • Difficulty finding the right word for something
    • Forgetting something they just read
    • Not remembering names of people they were just introduced to
    • Difficulty performing routine tasks at work or socially
    • Losing or misplacing objects
    • rouble planning or organizing


    What caregivers can do in this stage:

    Since the individual is still independent at this stage, a caregiver’s’ role can be to provide support and companionship. The person with Alzheimer’s may need help with things like:

    • Appointments
    • Managing finances
    • Remembering names or words
    • Transportation
    • Planning and organizing
    • Keeping track of medication

    It’s important to allow the person to maintain their independence as much as possible and keep communication open for when they do need assistance.
    caregiver and client2


    Stage 2 | Moderate Alzheimer's (Middle Stage)

    This is usually the longest stage and individuals can stay in this stage for several years. As the disease progresses, the need and level of care will become greater. People at this stage may start to confuse words, get angry or frustrated or act out in unexpected ways.

    Symptoms will be more noticeable and include:

    • Forgetting information such as their own address or telephone number
    • Feeling moody or withdrawn, especially in socially or mentally challenging situations
    • Changes in sleep patterns
    • Forgetting events about their own life
    • Being confused on what day it is or where they are
    • Needing assistance picking out clothes that are appropriate for the season or occasion
    • Urinary and bowel incontinence
    • Wandering and getting lost
    • Personality and behavioral changes, including suspiciousness and delusions


    What caregivers can do in this stage:

    Individuals at this stage will require a greater level of care. The person with Alzheimer’s may become frustrated and upset when they have difficulty remembering things and names or trouble with daily activities such as getting dressed. You will most likely have to adjust your daily routine to include more structure for the individual with Alzheimer’s. At this stage caregivers can:

    • Use a calm voice when responding to questions to help the person from getting upset or frustrated.
    • Respond to the person’s emotion, instead of the question asked. The individual may need reassurance. 
    • If the individual can still read, write out reminders for them.

    Practice patience and sensitivity with patients in this stage. They may become increasingly upset or frustrated as they lose more brain function as well as their independence.


    Stage 3 | Severe Alzheimer's (Late Stage)

    In the final stage of Alzheimer’s, personality changes may occur and individuals need increasing help with daily activities. They may still use words or phrases, but communicating emotion becomes difficult.

    Symptoms and behaviors at this stage may include:

    • Changes in physical abilities, including the ability to walk, sit and swallow
    • Needing assistance with daily personal care
    • Not knowing their surroundings or recalling recent experiences
    • Increasingly difficulty communicating
    • Vulnerability to infections, particularly pneumonia


    What caregivers can do in this stage:

    Intensive, around-the-clock care is usually required at this stage and can last from several weeks to several years. The role of the caregiver is to preserve the quality of life and dignity for the individual. People in this stage will need help with most activities including eating, dressing, and even walking. At this stage, the world is mainly experienced through the senses. Caregivers can connect and help an individual by:

    • Playing his or her favorite music
    • Reading excerpts of their favorite books
    • Looking at old photos with them
    • Preparing a favorite meal
    • Brushing the person’s hair
    • Sitting outside together

    Although an individual in this stage is unable to communicate, research shows that some core of their self may still remain. Caregivers and loved ones may be able to connect on some level even in this stage of the disease.

    Harmony is founded with a single focus in mind: providing compassionate home care and home healthcare to the residents of Southwestern Pennsylvania.

    Our trustworthy caregivers are ready to lend a helping hand to your mother, father, children, and loved ones in Somerset County, Fayette County, Westmoreland County, and many more locations throughout the region. Contact us and one of our patient advocates will be happy to discuss how Harmony's programs can help your family today. 

    We’re here to help. Call us now, or we can call you.