Dementia is a progressive disease, which means the symptoms increase and worsen over time. While every case is unique, certain patterns of dementia can help caregivers understand their loved one's circumstances.
The simplest way to explain dementia stages is to break them down into three parts: early, middle and late.
Described as mild dementia, this stage typically involves symptoms that are almost imperceptible at first. Seniors experiencing it may have trouble remembering a name or word to describe something. They might misplace their keys or television remote or fail to recall the current day or month.
Such memory lapses are considered a normal part of aging, and every older adult, with or without dementia, will experience similar moments.
These mild symptoms don't detract from an individual's ability to live independently. During this time, many seniors establish future care plans and arrange wills expressing their desires.
Dementia symptoms are different depending on the type the person has been diagnosed with, but many share commonalities, such as:
Support and understanding are keys to helping a senior facing a dementia diagnosis. Behavioral changes are common in the early stages, and it's crucial to watch for signs of depression and denial regarding health.
Caregivers can talk with their loved one's health care providers to create a plan for the future and receive educational materials, such as guides from the Alzheimer's Association. Joining a caregiver support group can also help provide caregivers with links to other families, which can help them cope.
Since many seniors have trouble making decisions and managing simple tasks efficiently, caregivers can support their independence by helping them create coping methods.
Some good examples include:
Seniors often remain in middle-stage or moderate dementia for many years. Independence is progressively diminished during this period as symptoms increase, which can lead to mood swings and relationship difficulties.
Individuals can still participate in activities with assistance and benefit from purposeful engagement that builds their self-worth. Time spent with family, music therapies and cognitive games can help slow the disease's progression.
Seniors frequently struggle to establish a steady sleep pattern and experience diminished sleep quality. Assistance is required for most daily tasks, making it important to choose the appropriate care, including in-home or memory care services in a community such as Autumn View Gardens.
Confusion and anxiety are common among seniors with moderate dementia. In addition to forgetting important personal history and information, individuals often experience:
The physical and emotional burden on caregivers typically increases along with their loved one's symptoms. Self-care and outside support are vital for families, who may overlook their own needs and focus instead on others' struggles.
Caregivers can help guide seniors through their daily tasks by breaking down activities into simple steps. For challenges such as choosing what to wear, offering a choice between two items instead of asking an open-ended question can help seniors focus on and complete tasks.
Creating a safe, secure environment can help soothe anxious older adults, and playing beloved music has been shown to help provide healthy cognitive stimulation.
The final form with the most severe symptoms, late-stage dementia is typically characterized by an individual's inability to respond to their environment or loved ones.
Around-the-clock supervision and assistance are required, and as confusion and anxiety symptoms worsen, seniors often become frightened during caregiving tasks and respond aggressively.
Although older adults with late-stage dementia may be unable to communicate through speech, they sometimes respond through alternate methods of communication. They also still benefit from personal engagement, such as gentle hand massages and listening to music.
Diminishing communication skills can prevent seniors from expressing health issues such as pain and illness. Mobility issues also can lead to blot clots and infections. Other symptoms can appear, including:
Reassurance and love are the best gifts a caregiver can provide during the final stages of dementia. Caregivers can advocate for their loved one's end-of-life wishes and monitor things to ensure their needs are met.
Services such as hospice and palliative care can offer seniors and their caregivers the support they need during this period.
Here in Ellisville, our memory care team understands how overwhelming a dementia diagnosis can be for seniors and their caregivers. However, we've also seen firsthand how love and compassion can form connective bonds within families that surpass time and memory.
Feel free to contact us to learn more about the phases of dementia and how we strive to help seniors to overcome the unexpected and thrive in the moment.
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