November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, so we thought it was a good opportunity to explore the disease that more than 5.8 million Americans are living with.

People often use Alzheimer’s and dementia interchangeably, but they are different. Dementia is an umbrella term that refers to a list of different symptoms, one of them being brain and memory function. While Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, one can have dementia without having Alzheimer’s disease.

Read on to learn the signs an individual may have Alzheimer’s, the different stages of the disease, and how caregivers can help.

Signs of Alzheimer’s

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are ten warning signs and symptoms that you or a loved one may have Alzheimer’s disease:

– Memory loss that disrupts daily life
– Challenges in planning or solving problems
– Difficulty completing familiar tasks
– Confusing time or place
– Difficulty understanding visual images and spatial relationships
– Trouble with finding the right words
– Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace their steps
– Decreased or poor judgment
– Withdrawal from activities
– Changes in mood or personality

Constantly being on the lookout for these signs is essential for catching the disease early on and limiting its progression.

3 Stages of Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s has three distinct stages that go up in the severity of symptoms present with the disease. Below we break down each stage and layout the common symptoms that the Alzheimer’s Association identifies, as well as what caregivers can do.

Stage 1: Mild Alzheimer’s

Stage 1 is the early stage of Alzheimer’s with the mildest symptoms. You may notice that you or your loved one are having difficulty remembering various things.

Common symptoms of this stage include:

– Difficulty finding the right word for something
– Forgetting something they just read
– Not remembering names of people they were just introduced to
– Difficulty performing routine tasks at work or socially
– Losing or misplacing objects
– Trouble planning or organizing

Individuals with stage 1 Alzheimer’s can still live independent lives, so a caregiver’s role is more to provide support and companionship. Helping them with smaller things like reminding them of appointments, assisting them with remembering names or words, and helping them stay organized overall.

Stage 2: Moderate Alzheimer’s

Also known as middle-stage Alzheimer’s, this is typically the longest stage and individuals can be in it for several years.

Symptoms will be more prominent and include:

– Forgetting information such as their own address or telephone number
– Feeling moody or withdrawn, especially in socially or mentally challenging situations
– Changes in sleep patterns
– Forgetting events about their own life
– Being confused on what day it is or where they are
– Needing assistance picking out clothes that are appropriate for the season or occasion
– Urinary and bowel incontinence
– Wandering and getting lost
– Personality and behavioral changes, including suspiciousness and delusions

As this stage progresses, the need and level of care will become greater. Individuals may get frustrated and upset when they have difficulty remembering things or have trouble with daily activities. Adjusting their daily routine to have more structure can help.

With the loss of some brain function and independence, practicing patience and sensitivity at this stage is important in order to keep the individual calm.

Stage 3: Severe Alzheimer’s

The final stage of Alzheimer’s, also known as late-stage Alzheimer’s, has the most prominent symptoms that can have a large effect on both the individual and the family surrounding them.

Symptoms and behaviors at this stage may include:

– Changes in physical abilities, including the ability to walk, sit and swallow
– Needing assistance with daily personal care
– Not knowing their surroundings or recalling recent experiences
– Increasingly difficulty communicating
– Vulnerability to infections, particularly pneumonia

At this stage intensive, around-the-clock care is usually needed. The caregiver’s role is to preserve the quality of life and dignity of the individual. People with stage 3 Alzheimer’s will need assistance with most activities including eating, dressing, and walking.

Although and individual at this stage is unable to communicate effectively, research shows that some core of their self may still remain and caregivers and loved ones might be able to still connect at some level.

Alzheimer’s disease can be painful for everyone involved. Recognizing the symptoms early on is important to have a shot of slowing the progression of the disease.

Do you or a loved one have Alzheimer’s? Here at Bluebird, our staff is able to help you or your loved one stay in the comfort of home and assist with caregiving. Contact us today to learn how we can help!