Caring Through the Stages of Dementia

While being the caregiver of a senior loved one with memory loss can be rewarding, it is also challenging.  

Dementia and Alzheimer’s are progressive diseases that change the way people think, remember, and reason. In the earliest stage, your senior’s symptoms may be unnoticeable, as their forgetfulness is minor. 

As time goes on and the disease worsens, your senior will have difficulty with simple everyday tasks. They’ll have trouble communicating and it will no longer be safe for them to live alone. 

There is currently no medication or treatment to cure Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, meaning your loved one will need assistance for years to come. 

Getting familiar with the different stages of dementia can help you care for and support your senior loved one. 

Seven stages of dementia and their characteristics

Since dementia is progressive, its symptoms worsen over time. While the effects of the disease will vary from person to person, most go through the following seven stages. 

Early stages

The early stages will typically last 2-4 years.

Symptoms of dementia often go unnoticed during these stages as they are not prevalent yet. While there may be some forgetfulness, seniors can live on their own and still complete daily tasks. 

Stage One: No Cognitive Impairment

A senior will have normal mental functioning with no signs of a memory loss disease. Though changes are going on in their brain, they are physiological rather than mental, emotional, or behavioral changes. 

Stage Two: Very Mild Cognitive Decline

Seniors in this stage will have such minor forgetfulness that family members will assume they are having “senior moments.” 

Stage Three: Mild Cognitive Decline

You will notice that your senior has become more forgetful, repeating themselves, and has difficulty concentrating and completing daily tasks. They will need help around the house with tasks and remembering dates and events now. 

Moderate stages

At this point, it’s evident that your senior loved one has dementia. The moderate stage will be the longest stage of their disease and where they will need the most help from you. Preparing to transition your senior now, rather than waiting for their disease to progress, would benefit their health and your peace of mind. 

Stage Four: Moderate Cognitive Decline

Cognitive impairment will be severe enough for your senior to have trouble with routine tasks and need constant support. They also may withdraw socially and have more mood swings. 

Stage Five: Moderately Severe Cognitive Decline

Symptoms that manifest during this stage are pronounced memory loss, confusion, and forgetfulness. As their caregiver, you may need support in caring for your senior loved one if you have yet to transition them.

Late-stage

During the last stages of dementia, your senior will need the most care, comfort, and assistance. If they have not yet transitioned over to a memory care community, they will likely need to now. 

By late-stage, most people live in an assisted living or memory care community that offers around-the-clock care and nurses. 

Stage Six: Severe Cognitive Decline

Along with a decline in cognitive functioning and difficulties communicating, your senior may have sleep difficulties, trouble swallowing, and personality changes, including paranoia or delusions. 

When visiting your loved one, they may forget your name, call you by another name, and fail to recognize your face on occasions. 

Stage Seven: Very Severe Cognitive Decline

In the final stage of dementia, a person cannot care for themselves, communicate, or use motor skills. When this happens, they may lose their ability to talk, smile, and walk. 

Most in the last stage will need hospice care. 

Contributing to your loved one’s well-being

As your senior progresses through the different phases of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, they will require different types and levels of care. Regardless of which stage they are in, they will need socialization and protection from isolation.

It’s also important to consider transitioning them to a care community sooner rather than later, as their disease progresses. 

Helping through the early stages

During the early stages of dementia, it is beneficial to make preparations for your senior loved one’s future. While you can care for their minimal needs now, it will become too difficult at a certain point. 

Look into in-home care providers, rehabilitation services, support groups, and senior living communities, so you are ready for the next move when the time comes. 

For now, you can spend extra time with your loved one, remind them of appointments, and pay their bills on time. More than anything, what they will need is socialization, emotional support, and companionship. 

Caregiving during mid-stage dementia

Your loved one will be somewhat independent, so let them do what they are still capable of. Allowing them to maintain their independence for as long as possible is healthy for them. 

Even with the independence they have, they will need more of your time and help now. Some caregivers decide to move in with their loved ones during this stage, hire in-home care to get additional support, or transition their loved one to a community setting.

If you cannot live with your senior loved one or transition them yet, you should do a walk-through of their home and make sure it is safe. You can do this by removing tripping hazards, clutter, adding night lights and guard rails. 

Transportation will be necessary as your senior moves into these stages, as they will need help getting to the grocery store and doctor’s appointments. 

Comforting your senior in the late-stages

At this stage, caregivers and family members will need to continue being supportive to ensure the highest quality of life. 

Since your senior loved one will require care 24 hours a day, they will need to transition to a safe, comfortable, and secure environment if they haven’t already. 

The best senior living communities offer life-enrichment activities, rehabilitation services, medical assistance, exceptional dining services that focus on proper nutrition, and warm and compassionate staff. 

The Importance of Socialization

One of the best ways to contribute to your senior loved one’s well-being is to make sure they are receiving enough stimulation. As their caregiver, you can drive them to events and activities and suggest new things for them to do. 

Studies have found that socialized seniors are less depressed and anxious, healthier, have greater longevity, a better sense of purpose, and have higher self-esteem. 

Seniors and even caregivers who find themselves isolated typically have higher levels of anxiety, depression, loneliness, low self-esteem, difficulties sleeping, weaker immune systems, and worse cardiovascular health. 

Caregiver burnout

Caregivers devote a lot of their time, love, and energy to the person they are caring for. They have a daily routine and understanding of what their senior loved one needs. So, it can feel scary sending them into unknown waters. 

While it may be difficult for you to let go of your caregiver role, knowing that your senior loved one will be in great hands may ease some of your worries. 

At The Kensington Sierra Madre, your senior loved one will have ample opportunities to socialize. They will be protected from isolation and given chances to build and maintain friendships daily. 

It will also allow you to heal from caregiver burnout, which affects even the most kind-hearted and patient caregivers.

Even caregivers with the best intentions will eventually be incapable of providing enough care and support. There are types of equipment, techniques, and medications that only professionals can offer.

Specialized care at The Kensington Sierra Madre

At The Kensington Sierra Madre, we understand how important your senior loved one’s health, and well-being are to you. This is why Our Promise is to love and care for your family as we would our own. 

We take great pride in providing the highest levels of care and support for our residents. 

With around-the-clock supervision, rehabilitation services, psychological and psychiatric services, and life-enrichment activities, your senior can live their best life and “age in place.”

We have two memory care neighborhoods to provide customized support for your senior loved one, regardless of what stage or Alzheimer’s disease or dementia they are in. Call us today to learn more about our assisted living community, cozy memory neighborhoods, and the other outstanding services we offer our residents and their families.

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