There are three stages associated with Alzheimer’s Disease. Some people may experience the early stage for a short time and spend many years in the middle stage. Others may remain in the ‘early stage’ for many years. Every single person is different but of course, there are many similarities.
In the first stage, the changes can be very slight. However, people often ignore the symptoms or try to pretend that the symptoms just are not there. Seeking a medical opinion or some help means that the person’s quality of life need not be compromised.
Early stage symptoms can include:
- Lose an adventurous spirit and become reluctant to try new things
- Prefer a regular routine
- Find it hard to think of a word to describe something
- Get lost in following a conversation
- Become forgetful
- Find it hard to make decisions
- Repeat questions or statement frequently, forgetting they have already said it
- Change of personality, maybe becoming quiet, anxious or withdrawn
- Feel frustrated or angry with life
- May need to rest more often than normal
A carer or family member can help by establishing a regular routine, providing medication reminders, helping with meal preparation, encourage maintaining hobbies and activities, providing companionship and establish clarity if the person is confused.
The middle stage involves more changes and the person will probably move from family support with minimal help from a carer to requiring more home care. It can be very easy for the person to feel angry or upset if the changes are frustrating and annoying them. It might also happen that they are reluctant to engage in conversation with others or to keep up hobbies and they can become lonely and withdrawn without support.
Changes that occur during the middle stage of Alzheimer’s Disesase include:
- Short term memory loss
- Require help when washing or dressing
- Forget to take medication or to have meals
- Forget the way to places
- Find it hard to follow television programmes, newspaper articles or a book
- Find it hard to sleep
- Need help with preparing meals
- Can be restless
The middle stage can last for many years with the onset of the disease happening very very gradually. Independent living is possible for most with some assistance.
The later stage of Alzheimer’s Disease means that the person:
- May not recognise people
- May lose speech and become harder to understand
- May have difficulty when eating
- May become increasingly restless
- May experience incontinence
- May need assistance when walking
These mean that nursing care becomes a requirement. A decision may be made to move from assisted independent living to more permanent care or a nursing home. Although the person may not communicate effectively, there are many cases when the five senses are stimulated and the reactions are favourable. Music has been shown to bring delight and rememberance to those with Alzheimer’s Disease, as can particular smells, touch via a gentle hug or a hand massage, a soothing friendly voice and a cheerful smile.
At Comfort Keepers, we aim to provide a planned and comprehensive care plan tailored to the individual to ensure appropriate and specialised care is delivered, whatever stage and changes a client is experiencing. More support and care will be needed as time goes on and our carers note any changes so that the care plan can be adjusted as necessary. 44,000 people in Ireland are experiencing some level of dementia and while this is projected to increase as we all live longer, care will always be available.