The Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease: A Continuum of CaringAlzheimer's, Dementia & Memory Care | February 28, 2018
If you have a loved one who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, you may have started looking into specialized care options, whether it’s in-home care or an Alzheimer’s-focused health care facility.
As the disease continues to progress, the level of care should evolve to ensure that the person’s needs are being met and that quality of life is maximized.
The difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s
Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease have many of the same symptoms, but the two are not the same. Alzheimer’s is actually a type of dementia, which causes issues with memory, thinking, language skills and behavior. Alzheimer’s symptoms often begin slowly and worsen over time, eventually affecting the ability to complete daily tasks. Dementia is an “umbrella term” that characterizes an overall decline in the way the brain is functioning that diminishes abilities in a variety of areas such as memory, language, judgement, learning ability, and orientation. There are many disease states that can causes these symptoms of dementia, but the most common cause is Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s is a disease that damages the brain, it’s one of the most common causes of dementia. In fact, it’s been reported that as many as 70 percent of all dementia cases are caused by Alzheimer’s.
On average, people with Alzheimer’s live eight years after their symptoms first become noticeable. However, survival can range from four to twenty years, depending on age, health conditions and other factors.
Progression of Symptoms
Forgetfulness, confusion and word-finding difficulties are among the earliest and most noticeable symptoms of Alzheimer’s, but the disease progressively affects a person’s memory, especially more recent memories. These symptoms vary from person to person.
Trouble Reasoning and Thinking
Alzheimer’s disease makes it difficult to concentrate and think, especially in areas related to planning, calculations and organizations. Multitasking can be extremely difficult, making it a challenge to manage finances and pay bills. These difficulties may continue to progress so that the person may not recognize numbers at all.
Planning and Performing Familiar Tasks
Routine activities that require a series of steps, such as cooking or playing a game, become increasingly difficult as the disease progresses. Eventually, people with advanced Alzheimer’s won’t be able to engage interpedently in common everyday tasks such as dressing or bathing, without the help of a caregiver.
Alzheimer’s disease can have a profound effect on the way people act and feel. But many skills aren’t affected until the later stages of the disease, including reading, dancing, singing, telling stories and reminiscing. Memories from early in life are the strongest because they are stored in a different area of the brain than long term memories. Encouraging long term memories can help maintain quality of life even into the later stages of the disease.
ASC’s Prism Cognitive Staging Program
There are different ways to categorize the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, but the continuum of care should match the severity of the symptoms. ASC captures where a person is currently functioning by stages as described below.
The first stage of Alzheimer’s represents normal memory functioning, or some level of mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Some consideration is needed for normal, age-related brain changes, or for some mild cognitive challenges related to MCI. A person may seem to be healthy but has more and more trouble making sense of the world around him or her. The realization that something is wrong often comes gradually to the person and his or her family and will begin to become evident in this stage if MCI is present.
During the yellow stage, caregivers need to slow down and consider the person’s needs and abilities. Interactions with your loved one may require some specific memory supportive interactions. Some symptoms include no longer being able to complete daily tasks, repeating questions, misplacing items in unusual places and increased moments of upset and/or anxiety.
In this stage, you may notice difficulty with language, shortened attention span, problems recognizing family and friends and hallucinations and paranoia in some forms of dementia. More intensive supervision and care become necessary, which can be difficult for many spouses and families. It’s important to consider the person’s abilities, mood state and your loved one’s needs before proceeding with interactions.
Like the final color of the spectrum, violet is the most advanced stage of the dementia journey. This requires our most heartfelt care efforts as we work to assist both you and your loved one with the specialized care needs associated with this stage. People with advanced Alzheimer’s cannot communicate and are completely dependent on others for their care.
American Senior Communities specializes in providing care to people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia through Auguste’s Cottage Memory Care centers at locations statewide.
For more information about Auguste’s Cottage Memory Care, please visit the website at www.ASCCare.com/ac.