When a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, planning for mid-stage and late-stage Alzheimer’s care may be the furthest thing from you mind. The diagnosis itself is already overwhelming. And before you start planning for the future, you need to focus on your loved one’s immediate needs.
But once you have your bearings, you’ll want to find time to think about what lies ahead. As overwhelming as early-stage Alzheimer’s might seem, the later stages of Alzheimer’s disease are even more difficult. Preparing yourself for these stages will make it easier to cope, which will improve quality of life for you and your loved one.
What to Expect with Mid-Stage & Late-Stage Alzheimer’s
Early-stage Alzheimer’s typically lasts for 1-2 years. During this time, the effects are noticeable but not debilitating. A person’s memory might falter occasionally, and they may need help with certain day-to-day tasks. But for the most part, they are able to function and care for themselves.
Unfortunately, this starts to change in the middle and later stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
Mid-Stage Alzheimer’s Disease
With mid-stage Alzheimer’s, a person will start struggling to function independently. Their memory and cognitive abilities will markedly decrease. Also, they will start to depend on Alzheimer’s care from family, friends, or professional caregivers.
Mid-stage Alzheimer’s is characterized by:
- Severe memory lapses and difficulty communicating
- Trouble remembering the current time and place
- Decreased hand-eye coordination
- Inability to recognize or remember the names of loved ones
- Needing assistance with personal activities like dressing and bathing
A person with mid-stage Alzheimer’s, which typically lasts from 2-4 years, can typically continue to live at home. However, family caregivers often rely on outside support from friends and Alzheimer’s care professionals at this stage.
Late-Stage Alzheimer’s Disease
Late-stage Alzheimer’s typically lasts for 1-2 years, during which time a person becomes entirely dependent on others for care. During this period, a person often loses language abilities completely, as well as short-term and long-term memory function.
Late-stage Alzheimer’s is characterized by:
- Near-total short-term and long-term memory loss
- Severe difficulty speaking, followed by loss of speech abilities
- Loss of physical abilities, including ability to walk, sit, and swallow
- High vulnerability to infections
- Requires 24/7 care and monitoring
Given the extensive care needs at this stage, it is difficult for individuals with late-stage Alzheimer’s to continue living at home. Even the most committed family caregivers will tend to rely on full-time care staff at this point or will move their loved one to a facility with round-the-clock care.
Alzheimer’s Care: How to Plan Ahead for Later Stages
Preparing for mid-stage and late-stage Alzheimer’s care takes time, and it can’t be done all at one. You need time to find and absorb new information, plus the chance to care for your loved one’s current needs. So rather than prepare for the later stages all in one go, it’s better to take a piece-by-piece approach.
Learn What to Expect for Your Loved One
Educate yourself about what to expect with mid-stage and late-stage Alzheimer’s disease. What kinds of behavioral changes will you see in your loved one? What kinds of interior changes are triggering these changes in behavior? What types of care duties will need to be performed? What are the best ways to make your loved one feel comfortable, safe, and secure?
Learn What to Expect for Yourself
Alzheimer’s won’t only affect your loved one. It will also have a tremendous impact on your life and your well-being. So educate yourself about what to expect as a caregiver. What kinds of difficulties will you face? How will it impact your well-being? What kinds of resources exist to make care more manageable?
Take a Close Look at Your Finances
Providing a loved one with Alzheimer’s care be expensive, especially in the disease’s later stages. Many people have to take time off from work to care for a partner, parent, or grandparent, and as the disease progresses, you may need to think about home care or nursing care.
Educate Yourself on Care Strategies
It’s much easier to provide a loved one with Alzheimer’s care if you’re already familiar with caregiving strategies. When new challenges occur, you’ll have strategies to address them. And if you’re already aware of these strategies, you’ll be less likely to make missteps when caring for your loved one.
Develop Your Support Network
Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s can leave you physically, mentally, and emotionally drained. So it’s crucial that you develop a strong support network. This can be made up of family, friends, caregiver support networks, and Alzheimer’s care professionals. The earlier you start to develop this network, the better.
Research Options for Alzheimer’s Care
As Alzheimer’s progresses into its later stages, most family caregivers find themselves unable to keep up. Many hire in-home Alzheimer’s care providers to share the workload. Eventually, it may also be better for your loved one to move into a nursing facility. In either case, it will be much easier to find the right care providers if you’ve already researched local options for Alzheimer’s care.
Here’s one final tip when preparing for mid-stage and late-stage Alzheimer’s care: be realistic. When a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, you want to do everything you can for them. But taking care of someone with mid-stage or late-stage Alzheimer’s all by yourself can take superhuman abilities. If you try to do it alone, you’ll eventually become overwhelmed. At that point, you’re putting the well-being of you and your loved one at risk.
Learn about in-home Alzheimer’s care and respite care options near you by contacting your local Visiting Angels® office.