Last week I talked about how to know if it’s Alzheimer’s disease and I ended the segment on Thursday with a discussion about stages one and two. I promised that, for this week, I’d finish up the stages.
I thought it would be most helpful for you if I not only describe the stages, but also provide some information as to how, you as a caregiver, might prepare and respond in a particular stage. After all, as a caregiver, you want to know what is coming and how to deal with it.
Let’s just review quickly. You can click on the link, Stages of Alzheimer’s-Caregiver’s Response to get more complete information. But for now, you may remember that Stage one is really not a stage of Alzheimer’s, but rather a stage when no symptoms are present. Stage two there is very mild decline that may not be noticeable, except by the most astute observer.
For today, let’s talk about Stages three and four:
Stage 3-This is the stage where memory issues become much more obvious. Even the friends and family members begin to notice changes. The person may find it difficult to remember names, especially of people he or she hasn’t known for a long time. If your loved one is still working or is involved in social activities like card playing, etc. associates may begin to notice that performance on the job or mental acuity in social settings is slipping. You may also notice that planning or organizing tasks become more difficult. Balancing the checkbook or following a recipe may take longer than before and may cause frustration. Medical evaluation may or may not be able to confirm with a high percentage of accuracy if the person has Alzheimer’s disease at this juncture.
Stage 4-I mentioned in an earlier post that although there are seven individual stages, the disease is also broken into larger categories. This stage falls into the mild or early stage Alzheimer’s disease category. It is characterized by obvious memory loss regarding current events and personal information, such as address, phone number and names of close family members. By this stage, it’s tough for the affected person to plan a dinner party, pay bills, balance checkbook and keep tabs on person al finances. At this point, decline is obvious enough that friends and family members are sure that something is awry. Often, the disease can be diagnosed with a fairly high level of surety by this point.
Caregiver Response-At this stage in the game, as a caregiver, you need to swing into action. If your loved one has not yet been evaluated; then make a doctor’s appointment and get that done right away. You should also consider who will become the primary caregiver(s). Getting Power of Attorney is very important so that you or someone is able to make important decisions on behalf of your loved one. Be sure to include health care responsibilities as well. You will also want to have conversations with your loved one about taking over the finances, paying bills, etc. Depending on the amount of assets your loved one has, you’ll want to see an elder law attorney to see how best to proceed to protect the assets of your loved one. If your loved one will be on Medicare then you’ll need to complete the paperwork to get that process started. In short, this is the time you will put systems in place to help you as the disease progresses. Most of all though, try to understand how scary this is for your family member. They have been living with the signs and not fully understanding what is happening for a long time now. Let them know that you will be there to help and support in any way you can. Allow them to express frustration and don’t take it personally.
Tomorrow, I’ll discuss stages five and six.