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The three stages of Alzheimer's disease

By Peter DiMaria

At Home Helpers, we provide senior care for Alzheimer's patients in Suffield, Enfield, and Tolland, as well as all over North Central CT and Western MA.

In a previous blog post, I talked about the ten signs we have to stay alerted to if we want to identify Alzheimer’s early on. Alzheimer’s is a disease characterized by gradual loss of memory, language skills, and judgment. Alzheimer’s slowly deteriorates the brain, like human development in reverse.

Now, if a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, what should be expected? As it develops, the seriousness and breadth of the disease changes.

Physicians usually classify the state of their Alzheimer's Care patients in three different stages

Stage 1:

Something doesn’t seem right. There are good and bad days. The patient is absent minded, forgetful and put things in the wrong place. For example, they can put the shoes in the fridge or the remote control in the cupboard. Things they do don’t seem to make sense and they forget recent events. They ask the same question minutes after having asked it the first time. They slowly lose their capacity of concentrating on tasks and they lose the ability to plan and think ahead. This sense of loss is often met with frustration and anger.

Stage 2:

Daily life gets more and more surreal and frightening. In this stage, the patient loses ability to carry on a normal conversation. They forget vocabulary to express how they feel or what is going on.  In this stage, familiar sounds and images are not recognized anymore. They have difficulty in staying up to date with their daily living activities, like bathing or eating. They walk aimlessly and get lost if they get out of the home.

Stage 3:

The patient slowly loses the motor skills and ends up confined to a wheelchair or bed. They can’t control any of their living activities, like their bladder, eating, chewing and swallowing. Reflexes from early development reappear, like grasping and sucking. Their eyes lose ability to focus.

The speed in which a person moves from one Alzheimer's stage to another varies and can be influenced by the care that is being provided.

If the person is being kept active and connected with things they like to do, the development could slow down.

It is very important to understand these stages to be able to plan for the future. Knowing what to expect may reduce the impact of the disease on the family and the burden of work on the family caregiver. It is my belief that patients in the early stages will have their dignity and self-esteem increased if they are able to stay living at home, with in-home care assistance. Home offers the familiarity with the environment and objects that will keep them connected to reality.

Having them at home and counting with some level home care services is also a more affordable alternative than the burden of nursing home costs, although at some point that could be unavoidable. A caregiver who is trained in dealing with Alzheimer’s patients will have the ability to diffuse the crisis and get the patient to cooperate in accomplishing their daily living tasks, like feeding, going to the bathroom and bathing.

Click here to learn more about Home Helpers Home Care Alzheimer's Care and Dementia Care in Western Massachusetts and North Central CT.