When an individual receives an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, it can be devastating. Depending on how the information is communicated, the support or lack of support someone has, not knowing exactly what the future will hold can be scary and anxiety-provoking.

A man living with a caregiver after receiving an Alzheimer’s Diagnosis.
Home caregiver and a senior adult man sitting at the table.

The journey of Alzheimer’s, however, does not have to be filled with fear and unknowns. Being prepared by educating yourself on what to expect and putting support systems in place can give you a more hopeful attitude when dealing with Alzheimer’s. Also, it is helpful to take somewhat of a ‘solutions-focused’ approach concentrating on a person’s strengths rather than their deficits. This tactic can be enlightening and lessen the frustration for all involved.

Below we will share some information about the three stages of Alzheimer’s, what to expect during each stage, and tips for caregivers.

Early Stage (Mild)

Someone who has mild Alzheimer’s can manage life more or less the same as before the diagnosis. Certain symptoms may be noticeable and are often misdiagnosed as depression or stress-related.

What to Expect:

  • Forgetting words
  • Misplacing objects
  • Forgetting information that was just read
  • Repeatedly asking the same question
  • Increased difficulty making plans or organizing

Tips for Caring for Someone with Mild Alzheimer’s

  1. Consult the person with Alzheimer’s diagnosis – Focus on what the person wants to do and how they can do it rather than what help they need.
  2. Develop a safety plan – Figure out how to make activities safe rather than limiting activities because they are perceived as not safe.
  3. Challenge the limits of what is possible – Be flexible in the ways that you communicate to convey positivity and support of your loved one. For a person living with Alzheimer’s, hearing ‘no’ can be a constant refrain, do what you can to get to ‘yes’.
  4. Start to cultivate a relationship with a home caregiver – Finding a suitable caregiver will not only reduce frustration and stress, going forward, it will also be invaluable that you have established this relationship.

Middle Stage (Moderate)

This is the longest and most difficult stage of Alzheimer’s. The individual experiences more significant struggles with communication and increased assistance with personal care is needed. However, many times the challenge with Alzheimer’s “comes not from dementia itself but the inability of our culture to support the changes associated with it”.

What to Expect:

  • Decreased memory
  • Trouble remembering family and friends
  • Increased tendency to repeat stories, foods, places, songs
  • Difficulty performing complex tasks
  • Inability to handle finances
  • Disregard for hygiene and appearance
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Change in sleeping patterns

Tips for Caring for Someone With Moderate Alzheimer’s

During this stage, caregivers will need flexibility and patience. It is also useful to develop a routine that will create a structure for your loved one.

  1. Get creative with communication – The middle stage can be playful. Look for creative ways to communicate, such as expressive arts.
  2. Practice being in the present moment – Although it may be difficult, practice letting go of how things used to be with your loved one. Accepting how things are in the present will help you both to be less stressed.
  3. Focus on what brings you together – Spend time cherishing activities that bring joy to your loved one – whether cooking the same meal every day or fishing at their favorite spot.
  4. Don’t take everything too seriously – Take time to live joyfully in the moment.

Late Stage (Severe)

Late-stage Alzheimer’s requires increased support. A professional caregiver or nurse is especially crucial during this stage for everyone’s well-being.

What to Expect

  • Total memory loss
  • Difficulty talking or an inability to talk
  • Recognizing faces but forgetting names
  • Difficulty walking and sitting
  • Difficulty swallowing (may need to be fed through a tube)
  • Trouble breathing
  • Delusions
  • Not recognizing thirst or hunger
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control

Tips for Caring for Someone With Severe Alzheimer’s

As mentioned earlier, it is more important than ever to focus on what remains as opposed to what is gone during this stage.

  1. Use various ways to connect with your loved one – Express your love and support through multiple senses. Try reading a favorite book to your loved one or listening to music.
  2. Look for clues that support a relationship still exists – When an individual with Alzheimer’s can no longer recognize their relatives, it can be exceedingly difficult to cope with this realization. But signs such as your loved one’s demeanor or body language can let you know that you are still connected.
  3. Practice self-care – Do what is needed to take care of yourself – take breaks, avail yourself of national and local resources, accept assistance from friends and family members.
  4. Be present with your loved one – As much as you can, try to be with your loved one in the present moment. This will allow you both to better enjoy the time spent together.

Learn More About What to Expect After Receiving an Alzheimer’s Diagnosis

Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that can be devastating to your loved one’s life and the relationship you have with that special person. And although knowing what to expect will not take away the pain you experience as you go through the Alzheimer’s journey, it will help reduce your stress and prepare you more fully to embrace the changes with a more positive attitude. To learn more about Alzheimer’s care or in-home care solutions, contact Family Tree In-Home Care.