• Carrie Klaege

September is World Alzheimer's Awareness Month

What are the 3 stages of Alzheimer's disease?

Stage 1 (The "early" stage) Mild Alzheimer's

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:

* Poor concentration and a short attention span * Difficulty finding the right word

* Problems making decisions * Forgetting something they just read

* Losing or misplacing objects * Trouble planning or organizing

* Forgetfulness (names, dates, etc.) * Depression

* Difficulty performing routine daily tasks * Personality changes (crankiness, frustration, silence, etc.)

What Caregivers can do at 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 and 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.

Stage 2 (The "middle" stage) Moderate Alzheimer's

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:

* Episodes of getting lost, even in familiar places * Changes in sleep patterns

* Feeling moody or withdrawn, especially socially * Tendency to follow people

* Forgetting events in their own life around

* Behavior problems, such a urinating in strange places, * Urinary and bladder cursing, acting silly or making sexual advances incontinence

What caregivers can do at 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 ("Late" stage) Severe Alzheimer's

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

* Weight loss

* Needing assistance with daily personal care

* Loss of short term memory

* Not knowing their surroundings or recalling recent experiences

* Loss of speech, although Alzheimer's patients may groan or scream

* Vulnerability to infections, particularly pneumonia

* Failure to recognize others, even themselves

What caregivers can do at 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 sense. Caregivers can connect and help an individual by:

* Playing his or her favorite music

* Reading excerpts from their favorite books

* Looking at old photos with then

* Preparing a favorite meal

* Brush the person's hair

* Sit 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.

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