When a family member is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, people often feel at a loss. The desire to provide the best care possible often wars with the feeling of being overwhelmed by the path ahead. Sadly, this situation is becoming more common. The number of people affected by forms of dementia has more than doubled in the past thirty years, and deaths related to Alzheimer’s have gone up by 89 percent from 2000 to 2014.
Though science continues to make strides to investigate and treat this neurological disease, the current data suggests that the number of people living with Alzheimer’s will continue to increase as America’s population ages.
By understanding the signs of Alzheimer’s and what to expect from a treatment plan, you can navigate the best way to provide in-home care to a loved one with dementia. While the journey of caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s can be challenging, with the proper knowledge and support, you can give your loved one the comfort and dignity they deserve for years to come.
Spot the Signs of Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia. Though much remains unknown about the causes of dementia, it generally results as aging brain cells struggle to communicate efficiently. While some recent treatments have progressed in treating Alzheimer’s, there is no cure. However, many lifestyle choices like exercise, healthy diet, and mental stimulation may reduce a person’s chance of developing dementia. In addition, one of the most important preventative measures is knowing the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s so you can catch the disease early and begin a treatment regimen.
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia include:
- Memory loss.
- Loss of cognitive abilities.
- Difficulty concentrating or problem-solving.
- Personality changes.
- Mood swings.
Genetics can increase a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s. This means that if someone in your family has been diagnosed with dementia, you may be more likely to develop it yourself.
The Common Stages of Alzheimer’s
Like other forms of dementia, the effects of Alzheimer’s worsen with time. However, the disease’s progression can vary significantly from person to person. Some people may live for four years after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, while others may live as long as 20 years. Due to the lack of a set timeline, knowing how the disease progresses is essential to anticipate your loved one’s care needs.
Changes in the brain preceding Alzheimer’s are present for years before any signs of the disease itself begin to manifest. This period is known as preclinical Alzheimer’s.
Mild Early-Stage Alzheimer’s
When symptoms of Alzheimer’s first appear, a person can usually still function independently. They can continue working, participating in social activities, and operating a car. However, they will begin to notice memory lapses and other similar symptoms:
- Struggling to remember a name or word.
- Remembering new names or information.
- Difficulty performing tasks.
- Losing or misplacing objects.
- Difficulty planning and organizing.
Moderate Middle-Stage Alzheimer’s
Moderate Alzheimer’s is generally the longest stage of dementia, often progressing for many years. People typically cannot live independently during this stage and may require an increasing care regimen. Personality changes can occur during this stage, including frustration and anger, erratic behavior, and a reduction in personal hygiene.
Other symptoms of middle-stage Alzheimer’s include:
- Mood swings and personality changes, including increased suspicion, delusion, or compulsive behaviors.
- Difficulty recalling personal information such as addresses and telephone numbers.
- Forgetting personal history or events.
- Confusion and disorientation.
- Struggles with bladder and bowel control.
- Changes in sleep patterns.
- Difficulty choosing appropriate clothing.
- Wandering and getting lost.
While a person can still perform many essential tasks with mid-stage Alzheimer’s, they often need the oversight of a caregiver or loved one to ensure they remain safe and happy.
Severe Late-Stage Alzheimer’s
During the final stage of Alzheimer’s progression, patients cannot function daily without varying degrees of assistance.
People with severe Alzheimer’s will:
- Lose awareness of their surroundings and recent experiences.
- Struggle with physical abilities such as sitting, walking, and swallowing.
- Experience difficulty in communicating.
- Require constant assistance and personal care.
- Be more vulnerable to infections such as pneumonia.
In late-stage Alzheimer’s, a patient will benefit from receiving care to keep them clean and comfortable, as well as providing stimulation through relaxing music and gentle touch. Many family members decide to explore hospice care at this stage of the disease.
Caring For Someone With Alzheimer’s
Providing care for a person with Alzheimer’s can require an extensive support network. Depending on the disease’s progression, providing Alzheimer’s care can vary from being nearby to monitor and orient a person throughout the day to a full-time job for multiple caregivers. Here are a few ways to provide the best care for a patient with Alzheimer’s.
Embrace Structure and Routine
Establishing a regular pattern is one of the best ways to help a person with Alzheimer’s remain oriented. Eating, bathing, dressing, and sleeping at the same time each day can create a routine that makes people comfortable as they start to struggle with memory. Helping your loved one make to-do lists and write down appointments can also benefit their memory. If your loved one has a certain activity they enjoy, like going for a walk or putting together a puzzle, try to fit it in at the same time every day.
Creating an Alzheimer’s-Friendly Home
Keeping your home safe from obstructions or other issues is vital to providing in-home care to Alzheimer’s patients. You should inspect the house for potential dangers such as rugs and cords that create a fall hazard or slippery bathroom times that could be a fall risk. You can consider putting up signs or reminders in areas your loved one will see them to help guide them throughout their daily activities.
Cover All The Basics
In the later stages of Alzheimer’s, people will need more intensive care to maintain their quality of life. As the disease progresses, they may lose the ability to care for their basic needs, such as bathing, toileting, and preparing meals. If they have prescribed medications, they will likely need help remembering to take them throughout the day. They will also need help getting dressed, brushing their teeth and hair, or exercising moderately.
One of the most important parts of providing Alzheimer’s care is being patient and considerate. Try to let your loved one do as much as they can independently, and understand that their mood and personality changes are often a result of the disease. Be ready to distract your loved one with calming activities or photo albums if they feel confused or distressed.
Face Alzheimer’s With an In-Home Caregiver at Your Side
Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s can be a harrowing experience, and family caregivers need support. If you want to ensure your family member receives the highest level of care, professional in-home caregiving services can provide relief for both of you. With the help of trained professionals leveraging years of experience in caring for dementia patients, you can continue to spend quality time with your loved one without setting aside the considerable time commitment to see to their daily care. At Generations Home Care, our top priority is maintaining your loved one’s dignity and quality of life.
About Generations Home Care
Generations Home Care personalized in-home care and support services help those recovering from illness, injury, or surgery, living with a chronic disease, or dealing with the natural process of aging. We help people live a fuller, healthier, and independent life.
Our caregivers are trained in the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended COVID-19 safety precautions. We offer levels of care ranging from companionship, to respite for the primary family caregiver, to homemaking services, to assistance with activities of daily living, to Alzheimer’s and dementia care. Generations Home Care takes a holistic approach and emphasizes a consistent, client-centered plan of care.
Our Specialty Services Include:
- Rehab or hospital-to-home programs for safe discharge.
- Short-term post-operative care during recovery periods.
- Non-medical life management services for people with chronic conditions.
- Veteran’s connection to care program.
- Live-in services and couples care.
If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you, contact us today at 602-595-HOME (4663) or by filling out the contact form on our website.