Different forms of dementia, like Alzheimer’s Disease, are debilitating diseases that progress and the stages of dementia get worse over time. While the disease may not seem too detrimental at first, the middle and later stages of the disease can cause many problems and may lead to you enlisting the help of an assisted living facility or caregiver to help with day-to-day tasks.
The word dementia is used to describe a specific set of symptoms that include memory loss, problems with communication and language, and difficulties thinking and problem-solving. As mentioned above, being that dementia is a progressive disease, the changes are often small to start but get worse over time and can affect daily life.
Dementia can be broken up into multiple stages of the disease including the early, middle, and late stages. It should be noted that everyone’s dementia is different and the way that it affects patients is different. Similarly, there are a number of factors that influence the effects of the disease, including personality, environment, and support of others.
In the early stages of dementia, a person’s symptoms may be noticeable and can affect their lives but, generally, patients will still be able to do most things with a little or no help. There are a number of common symptoms associated with the early stages of Alzheimer’s and dementia, some of these difficulties include:
- Problems remembering a word or name
- Challenge performing tasks in social or work settings
- Trouble recalling information
- Losing or misplacing valuable objects
- Problems with planning or organizing
Middle stages, or moderate, Alzheimer’s is normally the longest stage and can last for multiple years. As the disease and time progress, the patient would require a greater level of care. During this stage, dementia symptoms are more pronounced.
Symptoms at this stage become more noticeable to outsiders, this can include:
- Forgetfulness about one’s own personal history
- Confusion about where they are and what day it is
- Needing help with choosing proper clothing for a certain occasion or setting
- Problems with sleep patterns
- Wandering and increased risk of becoming lost
- Behavioral issues such as increased suspiciousness, delusions, and more
Severe Alzheimer’s disease, the final stage of the disease, almost certainly requires some level of caregiving for the patient as daily activities have become too difficult. Patients will likely lose their ability to respond to the environment, to carry on conversations, and, eventually, to control movement. They may still be able to say words and phrases, but communication will likely become increasingly difficult and full-blown conversations may become nearly impossible. As cognitive skills worsen personality changes are likely to occur and individuals will need help to perform daily activities.
During late stage Alzheimer's, individuals will likely:
- Require around-the-clock personal care
- Lose awareness of recent experiences
- Become vulnerable to health problems, like pneumonia
- Physical problems, such as the ability to walk, sit, swallow
As they near the end of life, people suffering from dementia can present special challenges for caregivers. Diseases like Alzheimer’s can go on for years, so for some, it may be hard to think of them as terminal illness, but they do cause death. As mentioned before, dementia causes problems with thinking, remembering, reasoning, and communication. Due to this, people with advanced dementia have trouble sharing concerns or problems that they are facing. For example, you may not be able to understand why your loved one is seeming agitated or when he or she is in pain and needs medication.
There is one method that is employed by many when it comes to caring for someone with dementia: sensory connections. Targeting someone’s such hearing, touch or sight can bring comfort to someone dealing with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.
For patients who have Alzheimer’s diagnosed early, end of life plans can be made before major cognitive problems are noticeable and before thinking and speaking abilities fail. However, end-of-life care decisions can become a problem for caregivers if the dementia patient was not able to provide a care plan.
When creating a care plan, quality of life is an important concern that should be considered. For example, while there is no cure for dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease medication is available that can delay symptoms for a period of time and can help control some behavioral symptoms. However, for patients with later stages of Alzheimer’s a person’s quality of life may be so poor that medication is unlikely to help and may even lead to serious side effects.
When making care decisions for dementia patients near the end of life, be sure to weigh the benefits and consequences of treatment options before deciding on anything.
It should be noted that being a caregiver for someone with dementia is not an easy task and can be demanding and stressful. In fact, many caregivers struggle with health problems on their own due to their job. Depression is a common problem among family caregivers. Likewise, caregivers also deal with fatigue.
Understanding the stages of dementia and the effects that they have on patients is important for those with loved ones dealing with dementia. For those suffering from dementia, cognitive, behavioral, memory, and communicative problems are common. Some common symptoms for those dealing with dementia include problems remembering personal information, misplacing valuable objects, problems with sleep patterns, physical issues related to walking and sitting, and more. Late-stage dementia generally requires patients to enlist the help of a caregiver or assisted living facility to help perform daily tasks.
One facility that can help your loved one during this period of their life is Landmark Senior Living. At Landmark, our staff is proud to provide a quality level of care for patients who are dealing with a number of health problems, not just dementia. Along with providing health and memory care, patients are given access to a number of socially stimulating activities to keep them happy during their stay at Landmark. If you are interested in learning more, please reach out to our website and schedule a complimentary walkthrough today.