With a potential 20-year timeline, Alzheimer’s disease care management is critically important to victims and their families.
AD can develop in people as young as 65. The Fischer Center for Alzheimer’s Research offers an excellent stage-by-stage overview of the disease’s progression and can be found here. The center reports, “AD affects 10 percent of people 65 and older, the prevalence doubles every 10 years after 65. Half of the population age 85 and over is thought to have the disease.”
While research to find a cure continues, the best anyone can do is to prepare victims and their families for the long care journey ahead.
A Long-View Outlook
Alzheimer’s disease is defined by multiple levels of progression. The Fischer Center describes 7 clinical steps with several substeps at later stages. The Alzheimer’s Association and the National Institutes of Health have suggested creating a three-stage range that begins with no impairment and moves to severe impairment.
Regardless of how the progression is defined, understanding where care should begin is what truly matters. For most families, it begins when a loved one is struggling with day-to-day activities.
Stage 4 – mild Alzheimer’s disease lasts for up to 2 years and is when most patients and family members consider the need for support and care.
Signs of Change
- Major events or visits to familiar people are difficult to remember
- Confusion over days of the week, month, and seasons
- Difficulty managing personal finances such as rent and bills
- Inability to shop alone, prepare meals, or order from a restaurant menu
- Mood changes include withdrawal, lack of emotional response
At this stage, experts feel that patients can still live independently if they are in a monitored or community setting with someone helping with basic daily activities.
Stage 5 – Moderate Alzheimer’s disease lasts approximate 1.5 years and includes all of the above changes but now patients cannot live alone. Without proper support, patients can experience behavioral changes such as anger and anxiety from people around them.
- Need help choosing clothes and getting dressed
- Loss of memory recall, some days they can remember their address and phone number, some days they cannot.
Stage 6 – Moderately severe Alzheimer’s disease lasts approximately 2.5 years. This stage may begin with patients needing help getting dressed and using the bathroom. They also need help bathing. At the latter end of this stage, they become incontinent. This can be managed by frequent trips to the bathroom.
- Shows almost no knowledge of events
- Confuses people – wife with mother, husband with father
- Cannot remember major parts of their life such as former occupation
- Patients without proper stimulation will pace the room or fiddle with objects
- Verbal outbursts are common
Stage 7 – Severe Alzheimer’s disease lasts for several years and progresses to an almost complete loss of function including loss of speech, immobility, and joint deformity as the brain loses it ability to control nerves. Patients need 24-hour care.
How to Manage Slow Change
A care plan needs to be developed to keep the patient safe but to also support the caregiver. If the caregiver is a spouse, he or she may also be elderly with medical issues that need attention. Additionally, the reality of AD is the progression is not determined by a calendar. Patients have good days and bad and changes happen slowly. Caregivers march through their days but then experience rapid burn out when more tasks and decisions are piled on top of existing ones.
It’s overwhelming to consider how AD will progress and that a loved one will never recover. With proper support and assistance, the patient can remain safe and independent for a long time. A good care plan ensures that the patient will also have the necessary assistance in place, to guide them through the inevitable stage changes as Alzheimer’s progresses.
People Come First
Comfort Home Care aides are dementia and Alzheimer’s care certified by the Alzheimer’s Association. Our caregivers are trained to understand the stages of dementia, and changes in behavior. We use this information to provide the best care possible. We strive to understand a client’s health history and personal preferences, their current health and care needs, and what their future needs might be. We believe this is the best way to deliver meaningful care.