I started talking about the stages of Alzheimer’s disease on Last Thursday. In that post, I covered stages one and two, on Monday, I talked about stages three and four. On Tuesday, I covered stage five. That means we are up to stage 6. Before I get into the details, I want to say again, in case you are just tuning in, that there is a plethora of information on the stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Most organizations, websites and blogs that talk about Alzheimer’s have sections on the stages of the disease. It is my intent not just to give you information on the stages; but to help you to prepare by suggesting ways that you, as a caregiver, should respond to the particular stage your loved one is currently facing.
If you haven’t gotten really down in the dumps as yet, you probably will at this stage in the battle against Alzheimer’s disease. I don’t mean to be negative or insensitive. It is just very difficult to watch your loved one slip away, while his or her body is still in tact. I mean, if grandpa has his leg amputated, it’s a horrible thing, but he is still grandpa, just without a leg. By this stage of Alzheimer’s disease though, in addition to very significant memory loss, personality changes may also occur. If grandpa was stubborn and set in his ways before, you may have to become very creative to get him to cooperate at this stage. Kathy from www.knowitalz.com notes, “We have a chalkboard that I write the day and date on for my dad, and when I need to change the schedule, I just change the date. Yesterday, I put out last Tuesday’s paper and wrote last Tuesday’s date on the board. Viola! Haircut on Monday – Victory!”
Your loved one may experience delusions, hallucinations, become very suspicious and engage in repetitive behaviors such as picking at lint on a sweater or tearing paper. His sleep pattern may be way out of whack. He’ll want to sleep during the day and wander throughout the night. He’ll need assistance getting dressed and undressed and probably won’t be able to handle the individual tasks of going into the bathroom, using it, cleaning himself, disposing of the paper, flushing the toilet and washing his hands. He’ll start to become incontinent and may even forget the name of his spouse, children or primary caregiver. He may eat more slowly and communicate less or speak gibberish at times.
You are now looking at ‘round the clock care. Your loved one will certainly hurt himself or wander away if he is left unattended. It is not wise to attempt to do this alone. If you have not solicited help you really need to rally the friends and family, an outside agency, even some strangers! Do what you need to do, but get some help. It will take more time to dress and care for grandpa, you might even have to feed him at times and if he is still going to the bathroom on his own, you will certainly have to provide reminders and some help with the process as well. Someone other than grandpa will be completely responsible for his cleanliness, grooming, getting up, daily activities, eating and going to bed. At this stage, grandpa will not be able to do any of these tasks on his own.
You’ll begin to grieve even more. You have been all along, but it will be more pronounced as the days progress and you become the “adult” while your loved one becomes the child. Get in a support group. It will help to be able to talk about what you are experiencing with people who understand. It is often around this time that families start thinking seriously (and painfully) of placing their loved ones in long-term care facilities. It’s a very personal and difficult decision that should be weighed carefully. If you allow yourself to feel, you’ll have bouts of seemingly unexplained sadness. It’s natural. You are losing someone you love and it’s becoming more and more obvious.
May I offer you a virtual “Penny for your thoughts?” Please share here or feel free to drop me private note battlingforhealth.com/contact.
Tomorrow, Stage 7