May 2, 2024 |Written and Reviewed by Boyton Beach Home Care - Editorial Contributors
How Caregivers Manage the Different Stages of Alzheimer's Disease

Caring for someone with Dementia and Alzheimer’s can be as rewarding as it can be complex. When you are dealing with an Alzheimer’s patient, as a caretaker you must be prepared for new situations and emotions daily. Sometimes not knowing enough can lead to feelings of being overwhelmed and isolated. The care plan for someone with Alzheimer’s usually changes over time, given the symptom severity.

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

It is a progressive brain disorder that is commonly characterized by the build-up or accumulation of certain proteins due to certain changes. Over time, it causes the brain cells to die due to constant shrinkage of the brain. It is also the primary cause of dementia, which impacts an individual’s overall ability to function through a gradual decline in language, thinking, behavior, memory, and social skills

About 70% of the 6.5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s are 75 or older; the disease mostly affects those aged 65 and above. About 60% to 70% of the 55 million people worldwide who have dementia are afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease.

What are The Stages Of Alzheimer’s?

Alzheimer’s disease follows a pattern of gradual progression, one by one through different Dementia stages. It does not set in instantly but worsens over the years or even decades. The duration of each stage varies from patient to patient, and not everyone encounters all symptoms. 

Additionally, there is frequent overlap between the cognitive, physical, and functional stages. Caretakers may be able to put off or even halt the deterioration of your cognitive abilities and overall quality of life with the assistance of newly developed dementia therapies and medications.

Two common models are used to identify the rate of progression in Alzheimer’s patients.

  • 7-stage model
  • 3-stage model

They both serve as a useful roadmap for families caring for someone with Dementia and Alzheimer’s.

3-stage Model of Alzheimer’s Disease

The 3-stage model gives you a general overview of how the condition is progressing. It also gives a breakdown of the three phases including the expected time range, as well as the broad symptoms.

Stage 1 – Mild/Early

People at this stage sometimes have trouble remembering things that happened recently, especially talks and events that happened within the last several days. Because of their linguistic impairment, they may ask the same questions over and over again.

Writing and object manipulation become more challenging for those with mild coordination issues. Depression, indifference, and erratic moods are all possible outcomes. They may have trouble driving and need regular activity reminders.

Duration: 2 to 4 years.

Stage 2 – Moderate/Middle

At this point, patients probably can’t hide their issues any longer. Some symptoms of widespread and chronic memory loss include a lack of recognition of familiar faces and an inability to recall details about one’s past. 

It is typical to encounter aggressiveness, delusions, and uncontrolled conduct. Lethargy, stiffness, and tremors impair movement and coordination. They need guidance with in home memory care, ADLs, regular reminders, and a structured environment.

Duration: 2 to 10 years.

Stage 3 – Severe/Late

Most persons with late-stage Alzheimer’s disease have trouble differentiating between the past and the present. Their memory, speech, and cognitive abilities deteriorate. They are usually unable to move about much and are at risk of falling due to their severe to complete lack of linguistic abilities, which leaves them unable to care for themselves.

Incontinence, sickness, and difficulties swallowing are also prevalent. A lot of people also have serious issues with their behavior, mood, hallucinations, and delirium. Caring for someone with Dementia and Alzheimer’s must be consistent.

Duration: 1 to 3+ years.

7-stage Model of Alzheimer’s Disease

Stage 1 – No Impairment

Normal and consistent memory and cognitive abilities.

Stage 2 – Minimal Impairment/Normal Forgetfulness

Characterized by less-frequent memory lapses as well as some changes in thinking pattern that almost goes undetected by friends, family, or medical personnel.

Stage 3 – Early Confusional/Mild Cognitive Impairment

The individual may attempt to hide their issues when they start to affect their functioning. Problems with planning, organizing, word retrieval, item misplacing, and forgetting new information might impact their daily lives and careers. Additionally, mood swings like depression are possible.

Duration: 2 to 7 years.

Stage 4 – Late Confusional/Mild Alzheimer’s Disease

Difficulty with numbers might lead to issues with managing money. While most individuals at this stage still have a good grasp on who they are and where they come from, their memory for more recent events and discussions begins to fade.

Common sequential chores that people often struggle with include cooking, driving, placing restaurant orders, and grocery shopping. The individual often isolates themselves, becomes defensive, and refuses to acknowledge that anything is wrong.

Duration: Roughly 2 years.

Stage 5 – Early Dementia/Moderate Alzheimer’s Disease

The decline has worsened to the point that the individual needs help. They can’t take care of themselves anymore, and they can’t remember important things like names and contact data. When it comes to time and location, they often get confused.

During this time, people’s numbers ability and judgment skills deteriorate significantly, making them more susceptible to fraud and safety issues. Extra oversight is necessary for eating and dressing, two of the most fundamental activities of everyday existence.

Duration: Average of 1.5 years.

Stage 6 – Middle Stage Dementia/Moderately Severe Alzheimer’s Disease

At this point in the process, people often have trouble remembering specific details from the past and have lost all sense of the here and now. While they continue to react to nonverbal cues and express themselves behaviorally in response to pleasure and pain, they gradually lose the capacity to do self-care tasks such as eating, dressing, and using the restroom.

In the late afternoon or early evening, one may experience agitation and hallucinations more often. Sudden shifts in behavior, including a lack of interest in familiar places or even distrust of loved ones, are typical. Even if they are acquainted, many people have trouble recalling specific relatives.

Duration: approximately 2.5 years.

Stage 7 – Late or Severe Dementia and Failure to Thrive

During this last stage, the capacity to move or sit becomes significantly diminished, and speech becomes severely impaired as well. Continuous, round-the-clock assistance is required for all activities of daily life and care.

Duration: impacted by the quality of care, but the average length is 1 to 2.5 years.

Early-stage Caring for Someone with Dementia and Alzheimers

“Early stage” describes the first stages of Alzheimer’s disease or an equivalent illness in individuals, regardless of age. A person in the early Dementia stages may not need much help, so many select the term “care partner” instead of “caregiver.” This might put you in a new and unfamiliar position. Friends and family members may act as care partners in Dementia home care at this stage.

Consider these tips used by care partners in Dementia home care:

  • Identify Safety First: Is the individual’s safety at critical risk if they attempt to do this work on their own? It is important to be vigilant and give supervision even when there is no clear danger.
  • Minimize Stress: Put the needs of the person with dementia first and avoid doing anything that might upset them. 
  • Can Do’ Attitude Helps: Treat individuals with dementia as if they are fully capable of doing the job. Attempt to determine the source of the frustration before you step in if you sense it.
  • Create a Help Signal: Dementia patients often have nonverbal cues that might help you gauge if they are comfortable accepting assistance.
  • Communicate: Direct inquiry is the best approach to identify if they need assistance or not. 
  • Work Better Together: Come up with things to do together and keep the conversation going about what kind of assistance they might expect from you. 

Middle-Stage Caring for Someone with Dementia and Alzheimers

Dementia often peaks in its middle stages, which might linger for a long time. The care needs of an Alzheimer’s patient will increase as the disease advances. The ability to adapt and be patient is essential for caregivers of people in the middle stage Dementia disease. 

The person with Alzheimer’s will need you to take on more and more responsibilities as their skills decline and their ability to operate independently becomes more challenging.

Types of Dementia home care available for the middle and last stage include:

  • In-Home Care. Care may be given to the patient in a setting they are used to. To alleviate part of the burden, a home health aide might divide up tasks with other family members or friends.
  • Adult Day Centers. Caregivers may not always be available to offer round-the-clock attention throughout the day due to employment or other commitments.
  • Long-Term Care. Certain patients require ongoing medical attention as the condition advances. Both choices provide help at all hours of the day and night.
  • Respite Care. For caretakers, this is only a temporary respite. The duration might be anything from a single day to many weeks.
  • Hospice Care. This is what happens when a loved one’s life is drawing to a close. A long-term care facility or the patient’s home may both host this kind of treatment. During a terminal illness patient’s last months, hospice care offers support and comfort.

Late-Stage Caring for Someone with Dementia and Alzheimers

Depending on the individual, the late stage of Alzheimer’s disease might range from a few weeks to many years. Intensive, round-the-clock care is often necessary as the illness advances.

A person’s requirements will evolve and intensify as the illness progresses in Alzheimer’s disease. 

Due to a great deal of care required in the latter stages, it is possible that you will not be able to meet these demands of caring for parent with Dementia at home, even with the help of others. It may be necessary to place the individual in a facility so they may get the necessary care.

Takeaway

The pace at which Alzheimer’s disease progresses differs from one individual to another and so does caring for someone with Dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Choosing a care partner like Boynton Beach Home Care can help you find a caregiver for the long haul, eliminating the stress of switching providers at every stage. A well-thought-out strategy with the right caregiver for both immediate and distant medical, financial, and legal needs should be in place.

FAQs

What is dementia home care?

Dementia home care involves providing support and assistance to individuals with dementia in their own homes. This may include help with daily tasks, medication management, companionship, and ensuring a safe environment tailored to the individual’s needs.

What do dementia caregivers need most?

Dementia caregivers often need emotional support, respite care to take breaks from caregiving responsibilities, education about dementia management, practical assistance with daily tasks, and access to support groups or counseling. Emotional support and respite care are among the most critical needs for dementia caregivers, as they help manage stress and prevent burnout.

Can a dementia patient be cared for at home?

Yes, many dementia patients can be cared for at home with appropriate support from family members, friends, or professional caregivers.

When should someone with dementia go into a care home?

Someone with dementia should consider moving into a care home when their safety or well-being cannot be adequately maintained at home, despite interventions and support.

What are the signs dementia is getting worse?

Signs that dementia stages may be worsening include increased forgetfulness, difficulty with daily tasks, changes in mood or behavior, confusion about time or place, and declining ability to communicate.

What do dementia caregivers need most?

Dementia caregivers often need emotional support, respite care to take breaks from caregiving responsibilities, education about dementia management, practical assistance with daily tasks, and access to support groups or counseling.

What are the 10 warning signs of dementia?

The 10 warning signs of dementia include memory loss that disrupts daily life, difficulty planning or solving problems, challenges completing familiar tasks, confusion with time or place, trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships, new problems with words in speaking or writing, misplacing things and being unable to retrace steps, decreased or poor judgment, withdrawal from work or social activities, and changes in mood or personality.

Can dementia patients live at home?

Yes, many dementia patients can continue living at home with appropriate support and care from family members, friends, or professional caregivers.

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