Alzheimer’s disease is a condition which gradually steals a person’s memories and abilities. As the disease progresses, a person becomes increasingly forgetful and their ability to care for themselves becomes greatly reduced.
It’s important for caregivers to understand the stages and progression of Alzheimer’s disease, so they can better prepare themselves for what is ahead for the patient.
Normal outward behavior: No symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are seen or experienced. Only a PET scan will reveal amyloid plaque buildup.
Very mild changes: Small changes may start occurring, but these still may get overlooked by a doctor or loved ones. Patient may start misplacing objects or forgetting words. Subtle symptoms do not interfere with everyday tasks.
Mild decline: Changes are more evident. Patients may forget something they just read, ask repetitive questions, have greater difficulty making plans or being organized, and struggle to remember the names of persons they just met.
Moderate decline: Symptoms of forgetfulness are more obvious, and new problems develop. Patients may forget details about themselves, have difficulty with the right date or time, forget what month or season it is, and have difficulty preparing meals or ordering from a menu.
Moderately severe decline: Patients may start losing track of where they are, struggle with remembering addresses or phone numbers, have difficulty choosing clothing for themselves, and forgetting where they went to school.
Severe decline: Names may be forgotten, people may be mistaken for others, delusions may set in. Patients may need assistance going to the bathroom, they may not be able to work any longer, and communication may be accomplished through music or showing old photos.
Very severe decline: Basic abilities like eating or walking require assistance. Patients may not have the ability to know if they are thirsty or hungry, so keeping them on a schedule can help. Offer them soft food that doesn’t require much chewing to reduce choking risks.
Receiving a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease can be quite scary, so it’s important to prepare yourself and your loved ones by knowing what to expect and making a plan.
At first, you should give yourself some time to adjust, especially because changes will occur slowly, not suddenly. Then, you should reach out for support by either joining a group or speaking to a therapist. Lastly, and this is probably the most difficult part, you should make a plan for the future. Have your finances taken care of, appoint someone to look after you, and make sure there is a care plan for you in case the disease progresses further.
Although Alzheimer’s disease is stressful and challenging, there are steps you can do to ease it. Keeping yourself informed and sticking with your treatment plan can help ease the burden on yourself and your loved ones.