September 23, 2015 by Dean Bellefeuille

Senior woman looking and smiling in garden on blue sky.

If you’ve found yourself stepping into the world of Alzheimer’s with a senior loved one, it’s safe to say that you’ll be discovering some new challenges and changes that may leave you wondering how to best meet your loved one’s needs. Although Alzheimer’s affects each individual uniquely, the disease can be broken down in a general way into the following three stages (and, we’ve provided some care tips for each stage):

Beginning Stage:

This stage of the disease can last for years. Your loved one may experience some changes in thinking and learning abilities, which may not be detectable to others without daily contact.

What you can do:

Be a care advocate for your loved one, providing emotional support and encouragement. Help plan for the future by discussing care setting desires (home, assisted living, hospice) and identifying care providers. Also, research support groups and discuss end of life care requests. Establish a regular daily routine and provide memory prompts and personal organization assistance when needed. But most importantly, help your loved one to stay healthy and engaged in what he or she loves doing.

Middle Stage:

This stage can last for many years, and an increased amount of care will be needed as the dementia progresses. Behavioral changes can occur, including sleep changes, physical and verbal outbursts (sometimes abusive), wandering and repetition of questions and activities.

What you can do:

Encourage as much independence as possible, but be ready to assist when needed and be patient and use simple sentences when communicating. Daily routines and structure remain important but don’t shy away from enjoyable activities such as gardening or walking.

Late Stage:

This stage of the disease may last for a few weeks to several years. Your loved one may have difficulty with eating, swallowing and walking, and incontinence is common. Oftentimes the ability to communicate with words and expression is lost and close family members may become unidentifiable or seem like the enemy.

What you can do:

Even though your loved one may be unable to talk, you can still connect with your loved one. Express your caring through touch, sound, sight, taste and smell. Watch for non-verbal signs that may indicate pain such as pale or flushed skin, swelling, wincing facial expressions or agitation. Much assistance will be required for the activities of daily living and you will want to learn the ways to avoid pressure sores and “joint freezing” by relieving body pressure and increasing circulation.

Regardless of which stage your loved one with Alzheimer’s is currently experiencing, At Home Independent Living can help. Our specialized Alzheimer’s care is available throughout Syracuse and the surrounding areas. Contact us online or call us at 315-579-4663 to get started.