Today is the third day that I’ve discussed the stages of Alzheimer’s disease. People are very different and they all start from different “norms.” For example, I have an excellent memory for phone numbers. Someone else may have never been good at remembering numbers, so our norm from the beginning would be different. That said, there are still benchmarks and tell tale signs that would signal the various stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
As stated previously, my goal is to give you the characteristics of each stage AND to let you know how you as a caregiver can respond to the things going on in that particular stage.
You will go from providing some assistance in daily activities to more sustained and consistent assistance. For example, in stage 4 you may have started helping with finances and meal preparation.
In this stage, stage 5, you will find that your loved one needs help with most daily activities. For example, grandma may still know how to put her clothes on, but she may forget to take her pajamas off before she gets dressed. She may put her bra on over her sweater or put her nightgown on OVER her clothes. It’s probably not safe for her to cook because she may put something inappropriate into the microwave or turn on the stove and forget it’s on. There is also potential for a severe burn as she may not recall that the pot handle is hot. She may not remember that she just poured boiling water into a cup and therefore attempt to drink it before it is at the correct temperature. She spends much more time in the past than she does in the present, although she probably remembers close family and friends (most of the time). With regards to time and space, she may forget where she is, the date, time and or season.
At this stage, you will become much more involved in day to day care. Your loved one will need help getting dressed properly and preparing meals. If your loved one lives alone, you’ll have to consider moving her in with someone who can provide round the clock supervision because wandering and safety will become more and more of a concern. If you haven’t already, you should consider adult day care programs and senior center activities. These day programs will keep your loved one’s body and mind active, while providing appropriate supervision. My mom attended adult day care for a few years. Transportation was provided and it was safe for her and provided an opportunity for me to run errands, work, care for my young son, take care of household duties and get ready for her return in the evening.
You should start to think seriously about the future. As caregiving requires more time, will you bring in outside help? Consider an Alzheimer’s Care facility? Rally friends and family?
NOTE: If you haven’t already gotten durable Power of Attorney (POA), it may be too late. If your loved one can still be logical and make some decisions, you need to handle this matter RIGHT NOW. Stage 6 will be too late for sure. There are other options, but they are more time consuming, more costly and much more involved than just getting the Power of Attorney.