July 12, 2023 by Dean Bellefeuille

The adult child of a senior with Alzheimer’s places her hand on the senior’s shoulder reassuringly after noticing an abrupt worsening of Alzheimer’s symptoms.

It would be great if Alzheimer’s care came with a manual – a step-by-step guide on what to expect at each stage of the disease. While there are some general commonalities in the progression of dementia, each person’s experience is unique. So, it’s difficult to know what to prepare for on any given day.

Outside of the unpredictable nature of Alzheimer’s disease, there are other particular situations to watch out for. One of the most concerning is an abrupt worsening of Alzheimer’s symptoms. This could occur for a variety of reasons:

  • Stroke or a brain injury, such as from a fall
  • Delirium, brought about by an infection, hospital stay or surgery, medication side effects, lack of sleep, dehydration, or even constipation
  • An underlying illness such as cancer or prion disease
  • Sundowning
  • Disruption to normal routine from a move, change in caregivers, hospitalization, etc.

What Are the Typical Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s is an incurable and progressive disease. Therefore, a decline in condition is to be expected. However, an abrupt worsening of Alzheimer’s symptoms is not normal. In general, the disease progresses through the following stages:

  • Early: The first detectable signs of Alzheimer’s are usually very mild, including short-term memory lapses, forgetting a word, or getting lost.
  • Middle: In the middle stage of the disease, cognitive difficulties progress to the point that the person struggles with independently performing activities of daily living.
  • Late: The final stage of Alzheimer’s, which can take years to reach, involves a lack of response and recognition of both people and environment, as the body starts to shut down.

If You Notice Sudden Worsening of Alzheimer’s Symptoms…

If you’ve noticed a sudden worsening of symptoms, seek medical help immediately so that the cause can be pinpointed and addressed.

A dementia care journal can be an extremely helpful tool, before, during, and after worsening symptoms. Daily journaling can help you keep track of:

  • Medications taken and any side effects detected
  • Eating and sleeping habits
  • What works and what doesn’t work in helping the person manage challenges
  • Any difficult behaviors noted, with details on time of day and possible triggers or contributing circumstances
  • The person’s overall demeanor on any given day

These kinds of details will be invaluable in helping to piece together what may have caused a sudden change in condition and how to remedy it.

At Home Independent’s caregivers are specially trained and skilled in caring for those with dementia and detecting any changes in condition. Contact us at (315) 579-HOME (4663) and let us walk beside you on your dementia care journey in Syracuse, Camillus, Clay, and the surrounding areas.