Alzheimer’s. The word itself is frightening to hear. The reason the word is so frightening is because it is loaded with anxious expectation. Unlike cancer or heart disease, or the myriad other diseases that commonly affect people, Alzheimer’s not only affects lifestyle, but life itself. It’s a disease not in the heart, but of the heart. The diagnosis spells a future in which patients will not only find it hard to function, but find difficulty to relate, even to those they love most.
One of the ways to cope to such a difficult diagnosis is to gain knowledge about what to expect. Even Alzheimer’s is more manageable when there is clarity about what is likely to come so you can get help in managing the process and improve outcomes. Alzheimer’s is a result of changes in the brain that often occur over many years, frequently without any discernible symptoms to the casual onlooker. This is called preclinical Alzheimer’s disease. However, in the time that a diagnosis actually occurs, patients can usually be found in the continuum of one of three stages of the disease.
Mild Alzheimer’s Disease
In its mildest diagnosable form, Alzheimer’s patients often live independently, usually living at home, perhaps working, and maintaining an active social life. People who have frequent contact with the patient, however, may notice the patient misplacing objects and unable to retrieve them. There may be lapses in organizational ability, forgetting details about a recent event, or becoming unusually sullen and irritable due to increased social challenges. A physician will want to pursue a comprehensive medical interview with a patients loved ones who might be able to point out these changes and offer examples leading to a diagnosis.
Moderate Alzheimer’s Disease
Patients suffering from moderate, or mid-stage Alzheimer’s disease have grown more forgetful and tend to rely to a much greater degree on family and friends for daily care. At this stage, patients are more disoriented and confused about time of day, location, or expectations (for example, wondering why the Christmas tree isn’t up, and yet it is July). With increasing frequency, patients cannot recall information about themselves and their closest relationships, including previously familiar details such as names, birthdates, addresses, phone numbers, etc. which often leads to frustration in themselves and in those they love.
You may notice difficulties in choosing clothing for special occasions or appropriate to the weather, and patients forget previously typical grooming habits such as brushing teeth, bathing, brushing hair, etc. Patients at this stage usually no longer work, drive, or maintain their home on their own. Sometimes patients develop suspicions about friends and family members, imagining circumstances of theft or infidelity by their spouse, then acting out with verbal and even physical aggression. Patients also may begin wandering in their homes or neighborhoods, perhaps trying to find a place of familiarity.
Severe Alzheimer’s Disease
Late-stage Alzheimer’s is the final progression of the disease, and often the stage that patients and their loved ones imagine and fear most upon diagnosis. This is the stage where the ability for a patient to relate coherently to the world around them and the people they love is lost.
As memory skills reach their furthest decline, most other functions begin to radically decrease in scope as well. Patients often lose all ability to maintain a coherent conversation, to include communicating personal information, needs, and preferences. Despite external cues about time of day, season, holidays, etc. the patient is no longer able to retain and respond to that information. Physical limitations have also set in, where Alzheimer’s patients often no longer walk, use the restroom, or eat without personal or mechanical assistance. These circumstances render people vulnerable to injury and illness.
Often by moderate-stage Alzheimer’s disease and certainly by the severe stage, in home or other personal care and nursing assistance is necessary. Care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease is heart-rending and difficult at every stage, and you don’t need to do it alone. For more information about options and assistance available to you, please contact Caring Hands Matter.
Enlist Fairfax Home Care For Support
The symptoms that are presented within each individual will indicate what kind of care and support may be needed to assist patients and their families. Caring Hands Matter is a trusted provider of Fairfax home care services and can also provide more specialized home care for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients. Send us a message online or call directly to learn how we can help you and your loved one live with a higher quality of life.