That’s why it’s essential to learn tried-and-true care techniques, find resources to help prepare, and identify sources of support. At Superior Senior Home Care, we specialize in Dementia & Alzheimer’s Care.
It can be overwhelming at times, but you need not ever despair. Diseases like this have been well documented and there is a wealth of resources available for how to properly treat and care for those suffering. Below you’ll find the 7 Stages of Dementia and how to prepare for it.
7 Stages Of Dementia
Dementia is not a one-size-fits-all condition. It presents itself differently in each individual and progresses at different rates. Where some can stay in a state of mild decline for a long period of time, others seem to develop every symptom at once.
Understanding each stage can help make these transitions a little easier on you and your loved one.
Stage 1: No impairment
Everyone starts at stage 1. There are no symptoms of cognitive impairment, mental function is normal.
Stage 2: Very mild cognitive decline
This stage can vary between typical age-related memory problems that most seniors face (such as forgetting certain dates) or could include some of the beginning signs of Alzheimer’s disease. Some of the side effects that correspond with this stage include:
- forgetting everyday phrases
- forgetting the location of important objects (such as where your father left his keys)
Stage 3: Mild cognitive decline
Stage 3 is where symptoms of dementia or Alzheimer’s can become more noticeable to friends and family. This stage won’t have a major impact on your loved one’s day-to-day life, but you may notice these signs:
- Impaired work performance
- Memory loss/forgetfulness
- Verbal repetition
- Poor organization and concentration
- Trouble with complex tasks/problem solving
- Difficulty driving
Stage 4: Moderate cognitive decline
This stage is commonly defined as early-onset Alzheimer’s or dementia. Symptoms of cognitive decline are apparent and your loved one should be seeing a health care professional. Signs at this stage include:
- Social withdrawal
- Trouble with routine tasks
Stage 5: Moderately severe cognitive decline
Stage 5 is when your loved one is likely to need help with routine tasks like dressing or bathing, requiring a home caregiver or a move to a memory care community. Other symptoms include:
- Memory loss of personal details and current events
- Reduced mental acuity and problem-solving capacity
Stage 6: Severe cognitive decline
Also known as middle dementia or moderately severe Alzheimer’s disease, this stage will find your loved one requiring help for Activities of Daily Living (ADL’s) such as using the bathroom or eating. Your loved one may also experience difficulty sleeping, increased paranoia or delusions, anxiety, and difficulty recognizing loved ones.
Stage 7: Very severe cognitive decline
Stage 7 is severe Alzheimer’s disease or late-stage dementia. Your loved one is unable to care for themselves, lives with severe motor and communication impairment, and may lose the ability to speak or walk.
5 ways to prepare for caring for someone with dementia
1. Seeking and understanding a dementia diagnosis
When you notice that your older adult is experiencing dementia-like symptoms, an important first step is to get a proper diagnosis and understand what it means.
This may not be easy to do because many doctors are not experienced in dementia care. But it’s worthwhile to be persistent, find specialists as needed, and learn as much as possible.
Knowing that your older adult has dementia and not a treatable condition with similar symptoms means that you can seek out helpful resources, find out what to expect, plan for the future, and find out how to handle challenging dementia behaviors.
2. A care partner mindset
Depending on how advanced dementia is, you may be able to think of yourself as a care “partner” rather than a care “giver.” Of course, this will be different depending on the situation, so do what works best for your situation.
The reason for thinking of yourself as a partner is to help remember that the person with dementia is impaired, but still present. Their skills and knowledge may come and go, but they’re still able to engage with the world. Dismissing someone as “senile” typically leads them to shut down.
Once there’s a dementia diagnosis (or the symptoms are very clear and not caused by a treatable condition), work with your older adult as much as possible to create an action plan.
Recommended conversation topics include:
- Managing finances
- Access to checkbooks and credit cards
- Legal planning
- Advance directive
- End-of-life wishes
3. Learn simple interaction techniques
Learning more about dementia, how it progresses, and new communication techniques will help you care for your older adult. This knowledge improves the quality of life for both of you and is especially helpful when challenging behaviors start happening.
Simple, meaningful things that help you connect with your older adult include:
- Eliminating background noise whenever possible
- Maintaining eye contact
- Speaking in a slow, calm manner
- Playing soft music
- Looking at photo albums together
- Recognizing the power of touch
Other helpful resources include:
- Our True Colors: A Family’s Journey with Dementia – a mother and daughter who share what they’ve learned about dementia through caring for their husband and father
- Dementia Alliance International – a collaboration of like-minded individuals diagnosed with dementia who promote education and awareness about dementia to improve the quality of the lives of people with dementia
4. Social ties are important
A big challenge that’s essential to deal with is maintaining social connections.
It’s common that people stop visiting when they find out someone has dementia. Often, this is because they don’t understand dementia and don’t know what to do. To combat this, do your best to speak with family, friends, neighbors to explain the disease and let them know how they can help.
And even though it may be tough, don’t let fears of how people may perceive your older adult and you stop you from going out – to religious services, running errands, getting a haircut, medical appointments, etc. This eliminates potential sources of support for both of you.
A helpful resource is Dementia Friendly America (DFA). They’re a collaboration of nearly 30 organizations, including n4a, DAA, and ACT on Alzheimer’s. They work with local governments, transit systems, businesses, and health care systems to make communities more welcoming to those with dementia.
5. Consider support groups
Meeting other people who are going through similar experiences is invaluable. Listening to others’ stories, hearing about what’s helped them, and supporting each other through emotional ups and downs is a big help and comfort.
Online support groups are helpful for those who can’t easily leave the house and can provide support anytime, 24/7. Of course, it’s always important to be safe online and protect your personal information.
We’re here to help, and you can contact us right now to ask any questions. Our consultation services are completely free and we will guide you on the path to helping you and your family deal with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Superior Senior Home Care offers a complimentary consultation with an advisor to help you determine your loved one’s home care needs. To schedule your free consultation, call 805.430.8767 or contact us online.