Understanding the Stages of Alzheimer’s-Related Memory Loss
Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, is a brain disorder that affects more than 6 million Americans—and the number is growing. The Alzheimer’s Association projects cases to double by the year 2050.
Alzheimer's symptoms vary among individuals and usually develop gradually and worsen over time. The primary signs are:
- Memory loss
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks
- Confusion with time or place
- Mood and personality changes
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease fall into the following three general categories:
Early-Stage Alzheimer’s Disease Symptoms
We all forget where we put our keys from time to time, but we usually find them in a coat pocket or on the car seat after retracing our steps. A person in the initial stages of Alzheimer’s disease, however, might find their misplaced keys in a strange place, such as the refrigerator, and have no recollection of putting them there.
Memory loss symptoms might seem mild at this stage and may not have a significant impact on a senior’s everyday activities. However, most seniors will be aware they are experiencing memory loss. Family members may notice a loved one describe themselves as “forgetful” and make repeated attempts to cover up memory lapses.
Personality changes, such as a previously soft-spoken person becoming gruff, are also common during the early stage.
During the early stage, a Visiting Angels caregiver will:
- Provide reminders for important tasks or events
- Maintain familiar routines
- Assist with daily tasks, such as cooking and light housekeeping
- Provide social interaction and conversation
- Assist with errands and transportation
Middle-Stage Alzheimer’s Disease Symptoms
One of the most noticeable symptoms of middle-stage Alzheimer’s disease is the inability to complete everyday activities. These might include balancing a checkbook, driving to an appointment, or engaging in social conversations.
As cognitive processing abilities decline, a senior may have difficulty with reasoning, multitasking, and language. For example, families may notice their seniors are:
- Getting lost when going somewhere familiar, such as the doctor’s office, the grocery store, or a friend’s house
- Wandering or walking into a room and forgetting why they are there
- Having difficulties remembering names or finding the right word during conversation
- Forgetting where they are, what day it is, or personal details, such as their address
Most seniors who begin to struggle with personal care tasks during this stage can complete everyday activities, such as brushing their teeth or getting dressed, with the assistance of a senior care provider.
During the middle stage, a Visiting Angels caregiver will:
- Provide reminders, directions, and assistance with self-care tasks
- Offer limited choices for meals, clothing, etc. to preserve feelings of control and dignity
- Redirect to a pleasant activity or memory during times of frustration or agitation
- Interpret needs by becoming familiar with routines, gestures, and sounds
Late-Stage Alzheimer’s Disease Symptoms
Seniors with late-stage Alzheimer’s become completely dependent on a caregiver. Many in this stage are bed-bound and can’t adequately eat, communicate, move, or respond to the environment around them.
A common misconception is that older adults in this stage must receive care in a nursing home setting. Visiting Angels can help your loved one remain at home with 24/7 care. Your Visiting Angels care coordinator can also collaborate with other providers — such as hospice and home health — to meet your loved one’s needs.
During the late stage, a Visiting Angels caregiver will:
- Provide personal care services, such as grooming, feeding, and bathing
- Watch for concerning changes in condition and alerting their supervisor
- Support family members
Visiting Angels Provides Compassionate Alzheimer’s Care
As Alzheimer’s diagnoses increase, family members of seniors need to understand and monitor for signs and stages of Alzheimer’s-related memory loss to keep their loved ones safe, identify immediate care needs, and plan for the future. Whether a senior is showing early signs of memory loss or you are planning for future care, Visiting Angels can assist at any stage by providing personalized Alzheimer's care.