The Alzheimers stages will present ever increasing challenges as the disease follows it's relentless path. The challenges begin early for the victim and then begin to include those who will care for the person facing the condition. We'll attempt to give you a few things to look for and maybe some ideas to help improve their quality of life as much as possible.
I'm writing this page as though it is being read through the eyes of the person who will take on the role as major care provider. But I guess anyone reading this could gain some insight. I was asked to write a couple pages by someone with a family history of this condition. He thought that perhaps listing the Alzheimers stages along with some information on how to deal with them, would help out some of our readers.
At the end of this page, I've included a video. Nearly all of you will recognize the man on the right. He is on stage with his daughter, performing a guitar/banjo acoustical duet. He is also going through the progressive Alzheimers stages.
A milder stage of Alzheimers, ( if there can be such a thing), could last for a few years. This would be the time when the first symptoms appear. Perhaps you would notice a relative or friend, or maybe yourself, getting lost as you travel to places you've been to a number of times. Maybe you would notice a growing sense of moodiness for no apparent reason. Often times the right words may be harder to find in fairly easy situations. Difficulty with domestic tasks including keeping on top of bills could be a signal of problems ahead.
At this point the potential patient could possibly still live on their own. But if you are going to be the person relied upon in the future, your role may be just beginning. It would be a good time now to get your friend or relative in to see a doctor. There seem to be some medications that may help with memory loss and cognitive thinking.
You may want to line up some support for yourself in advance of the task you will face. Clearly it won't be as monumental as the patient, but the road will be tough for you as well. There are support groups to help.
A suggestion I've heard to help the person in the milder portion of Alzheimers stages would be to keep a notebook near them. They can use it to write down important dates, phone numbers and even their own home address. That last item could be a life saver by itself if the afflicted person leaves home and forgets how to get back.
Encourage your stricken relative in this milder stage to stay active. If you read the page on Alzheimers research, you know that activity and exercise may help slow the progression.
Be sure to call to remind them of even the most simple things like eating properly and taking the correct medication in the correct dosage at the correct time. Assume nothing is too trivial, because in time it won't be at all.
In the next phase of the Alzheimers stages, things get more difficult. This is in many cases, the longest stretch in the process. Memory loss occurs more and more. The brain is actually shrinking as this disease begins it's path of destruction.
The person in your care may not recognize long time friends or relatives. The chances of forgetting where they live increase dramatically. They may forget facts about their past life. They will have trouble getting dressed properly and later basic personal hygiene will become a major challenge for them.
Increasingly they will exhibit poor judgement in regard to finances and personal safety. Unfortunately people in this section of Alzheimers stages are often taken advantage of by people attempting to extort or steal any money available. A stricken person won't even realize what is happening to them.
As this stage continues, the person in your care may begin to show periods of agitation and even violence. They might accuse you of lying to them and they will become more paranoid. They may appear to hear or even see things that are not really there.
A person in this stage will not be able to live alone anymore. If they are not with you or someone else full time, they will need some type of residential care location. As I wrote before, this will be a long stage. You will see some good days for sure. But the tough days will get tougher.
In the late Alzheimers stages, your friend or relative may not even be aware of who they are anymore. Their own personal life may be a large mystery. You an imagine the confusion and fear this will present to them. They will recognize a face, but may not be able to grasp a name. Even your name.
From a physical standpoint, they may not be able to put even a few words together anymore. They may have trouble sitting up. Bodily functions will become uncontrollable. Their brain will not be able to tell them what to do anymore. Their body will slowly begin to shut down.
Toward the end, hospice may be the answer to help provide comfort as they spend nearly all their time in bed. I've read reports that suggest an average of eight years as the time frame a person lives after being diagnosed. But that can vary depending on age and other health issues.
Many times the Alzheimer's stages are listed as seven different levels. I've narrowed it down to give you a general idea. You will need the support of other Alzheimer victim relatives and friends. Your task is too great to go it alone. But your cause is most worthy. I've included a link to help you find support resources throughout the United States.
CNN presented an amazing, gut wrenching, inspiring, eye-opening feature on Glen Campbell as he pressed on against the steady advance of this mind-stealing disease. I thought it showed tremendous courage on his part and that of his family to allow the cameras to show what families of Alzheimers patients face.
It also backed up what we wrote about continuing to perform tasks that involve thinking and mental activity. Glen Campbell and his family decided to make one final, farewell tour. His daughter and two sons are part of his band.
Viewers were able to witness the loss of memory as Glen depended on a teleprompter to provide the words to his songs. Songs he had sung literally hundreds of times. He couldn't remember the words, but his pitch was still perfect.
And when it came time to play that guitar, it all came back to him. He could still make those strings sizzle. In the film, his doctors commented that his ability to perform on stage was actually helping his other mental faculties in many ways.
Eventually, it got tougher. As it always does. But he did his best. And his amazing family showed their support. We were able to see how much this disease was taking away from him in between shows. And how much was required of his family in their support role.
There will be other pages about research in search of cures. I'll be presenting information from a great book that highlights some probable factors in the growth of dementia related diseases. Our posting on type 3 diabetes offers some hope for avoidance of this disease.
This page is about conveying what could be ahead so those who will face Alzheimers stages, can be at least a little more prepared.