If you’re caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s dementia, one of the most important things you can do for that person is insure they are seeing a specialist in that area. In the past, I have written about the symptoms of Alzheimer’s but what I haven’t done, until today, is address when those symptoms occur.
Depending upon whom you talk too, there can be either three stages of the disease or as many as seven. Regardless of how you divide the stages, the symptoms don’t change. With that said, here’s what you could expect in “Early Stage” Alzheimer’s disease.
-Memory loss- They are losing and misplacing things.
-Confusion- They get lost in their surroundings
-Poor judgement-Burning food or going outside without a coat.
-Confusion with numbers-Trouble managing the checkbook.
-Mood or personality changes-They’re anxious, paranoid or withdrawn.
-Language problems-Having trouble finding the right word(s).
If you are noticing any of these behaviors you are probably dealing with someone who is in “Middle Stage” Alzheimer’s disease.
-An increase in Memory loss-“I didn’t eat.” “She never visited.”
-Suspicious of others-“Someone is stealing from me.”
-Needs personal assistance- Needs help with dressing, bathing and toileting.
-Sundowing- Restless and confused at the end of the day.
– Language problems-Difficulty expressing thoughts or feelings.
-Cognitive impairment- Trouble writing numbers or reading.
-Perception problems- Understanding what they’re looking at and depth perception.
-Motor difficulty-Can’t feed themselves or dress themselves.
-Behavior issues- Agitated, anxious and not able to complete simple tasks.
Finally, there are the symptoms you can expect to experience in “Late Stage” Alzheimer’s disease.
-Severe language deterioration-Little to no communication or jibberish.
-Incontinence of bowel and bladder.
-Requires total care.
-Sleeps all the time.
-Severe memory loss-no longer recognizes familiar things or people.
This is not meant to be a check list because, as I have mentioned in the past, “if you know one person with Alzheimer’s, you know ONE person with Alzheimer’s.” They are individuals and the disease will present differently with each and everyone of them. I recall a wonderful woman that, although she couldn’t remember if she had eaten ten minutes after lunch, could still draw beautifully. Then there are those that would be considered to be in “early stage” but they’re incontinent. This point goes to why it’s so important to see the right physician. Is the incontinence caused by the disease or is it a dietary issue? Is the fact that she sleeps all the time typical or is it the result of a reaction to a new medication?
There’s one final symptom that deserves special attention and that’s wandering. Not every “loved one” with Alzheimer’s is going to wander but many of them do and it can start at any time in early to the mid-stage of the illness. Maybe they don’t feel safe, maybe they are looking for someone or something. Regardless of the reason, you need to be aware of what they’re up to at all times. How many news stories have you heard of a senior “wandering off?” Sadly, these stories don’t always have happy endings.
When I was in Senior Care Administration, a distressed resident of mine came to me to say that she didn’t know where her room mate was. She had asked her to go out and turn the car on just to exercise the engine. She knew her roomie had some memory issues but never did she expect her to drive out of the parking lot and get lost. The good news was, I found her, confused, in the parking lot of her favorite store. She was scared and very relieved to see me.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease and all of these symptoms will only get worse with time. That’s why you, as caregivers, must be diligent and always be paying attention.
If you have any questions please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll answer them directly or in a future writing. Remember, Join the Journey.