Alzheimer’s disease can affect people of all ages and appear in varying forms depending on the advancement of the disease.
While dementia may not necessarily be a symptom of Alzheimer’s disease but rather a product of aging, here are the seven stages of Alzheimer’s and what to look out for in your aging parents.
This seven-stage diagnosis was developed by New York University and can help you identify symptoms of dementia in your aging parents.
Normal mental and physical function is maintained. Your elderly parents will not exhibit signs of dementia and, if they were to be medically examined and interviewed, would not exhibit any symptoms of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
Your parents exhibit mild cognitive decline, which may be showing signs of normal age-related decline in memory reflex. Such mild mental degradation can be attributed to the normal decrease in cognitive function or can be an early indicator of Alzheimer’s disease. At stage two, your aging parents may experience memory lapses, such as forgetting familiar words or the location of everyday objects. At this stage, Alzheimer’s does not affect the ability of the individual to work and perform daily tasks.
If you or your aging parents’ co-workers notice difficulties with remembering and performing tasks, then the early stages of Alzheimer’s might be at hand. Symptoms include having trouble recalling names, increased difficulty with remembering names of newly introduced people, performing tasks in social or work settings, difficulty in recalling material that has just been read, and misplacing or losing valuable objects. At this stage, early-stage Alzheimer’s can be diagnosed in some patients.
At stage four, you will begin to notice an increased cognitive decline in your aging parents, and the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease will be easily identifiable by a medical practitioner. These symptoms will include increased forgetfulness of recent events, personal history, and names in addition to the aforementioned symptoms. Your elderly parents may have difficulty with performing mental arithmetic and completing complex tasks and can exhibit signs of increased moodiness. Especially when pressed to recall information or questioned about completing tasks, your aging parents may exhibit increased agitation and/or signs of depression.
By this time, your loved one will be exhibiting increased cognitive decline and may have lots of trouble recalling information they would have easily recalled in the past. Noticeable symptoms include gaps in memory and thinking in addition to increased confusion, and your elderly parents will need help with daily activities. Examples of increased need for assistance are that your aging parents may become confused about where they are and what day it is, have trouble dressing for the correct weather or time of day, and have trouble recalling their address or telephone number. While the memory of those they see on a daily basis may still be intact, this stage of Alzheimer’s usually suggests that further progression will demand increasing levels of care.
At this stage of the disease, your loved ones will experience continued degradation of cognitive function, markedly worsening memory, personality changes, and extensive help with performing daily tasks. Alzheimer’s and elderly parents can be challenging to work with at this stage because of the increased care and supervision that is now demanded. Symptoms will include a loss of awareness of where they are and their recent experiences, having difficulty recalling names of close loved ones, personal history, increased assistance with dressing properly for the time of day or forgetting to put certain articles of clothing on, and experiencing major changes in sleeping patterns. Additionally, your aging parents may need assistance with toileting and may even experience incontinence. Thus at this stage, the need for in-home care is extremely critical in ensuring that your elderly parents are properly looked after.
In the final stage of Alzheimer’s disease, there will be evidence of very severe cognitive decline as well as mobility. Performing daily tasks become impossible, and most individuals lose complete control of their bodies and may even lose the ability to support their head or upper body. At this stage, individuals often lose the ability to carry on a conversation. The muscles become very rigid, and eating becomes difficult without assistance and dietary restraints.
Links to some special skills that can benefit someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia include:
- Communicating with Alzheimer’s clients
- Preventing wandering
- Ensuring healthy and adequate meals
- Participating in exercise
- Engaging in activities
- Monitoring for a safe home environment
Our home caregivers are available to assist with personal care, household services, respite, and/or companion care while bringing exceptional compassion, skills, and knowledge about Alzheimer’s and dementia to our clients.