Dementia is an umbrella term for a group of symptoms related to memory decline. Alzheimer’s disease is one common form of dementia.
Most dementia symptoms get worse over time. When a loved one has dementia, it can be emotionally painful for the family as they watch the physical and mental decline. To best support your loved one on this journey, it’s important to understand the stages of dementia.
When your loved one is first diagnosed with dementia, symptoms may not be obvious every day. Many people in the early stages can live independently with some support. While your loved one still has good cognition, now is the time to research the options for long-term care, if you don’t already have plans in place.
It’s important to stay involved, call or visit often, and make sure your loved one is handling or receiving any assistance needed with daily living. A watchful eye is important at this stage to be aware of any changes that may indicate more care is needed.
Help your loved one stay healthy for as long as possible by:
- Encouraging exercise. Some studies show aerobic exercise may help slow the rate of cognitive decline. Find activities, such as taking a walk, you can do together if possible.
- Eating healthy meals. Focus on a low-fat diet that includes lots of vegetables.
- Emphasizing routines. Make sure your loved one is getting quality sleep on a schedule and is interacting with others regularly.
- Reducing stress. Recognize and avoid situations that make the person with dementia anxious. Identify what helps your loved one relax. This will help in the future as the disease progresses, too.
The middle stage of dementia is typically the longest and can last for many years. As dementia progresses, it may become difficult for your loved one to express thoughts or perform routine tasks. Your loved one may begin losing the ability to understand conversations. Behavior changes can include depression, delusions, anxiety, anger, agitation and repetition. Other changes also may occur such as wandering and sleep changes.
Your role will increase significantly during this stage. If your loved one lives at home, it’s time to move in with relatives or to a residential-care setting.
Here are some ways to help your loved one with dementia during this stage:
- Behavior. Become familiar with behavior changes that can occur. Try not to take anything said or done personally. Don’t argue with the person. Watch for depression and talk to the doctor about treatment if needed.
- Communication. Have one-on-one conversations in a quiet area. Speak slowly and clearly in a gentle tone. Maintain eye contact. Ask one question at a time –yes or no questions are the easiest. Give the person time to respond. Offer reassurance and avoid correcting. Give visual cues if words seem confusing.
- Daily care. Allow them to do as much as they can themselves while being ready to assist. Consider laying out clothing for them that is comfortable and easy to put on. Help them with shaving, nail trimming or hair combing as needed.
- Eating. People with dementia sometimes forget to eat or have difficulty with utensils. A well balanced, healthy diet is essential, along with staying hydrated. If your loved one has a poor appetite or is losing weight, consider meal supplements.
- Safety. It’s no longer safe for them to drive or be left alone. Wandering is common in people with dementia, so safety precautions are needed.
During the late stages of dementia, your loved one will likely lose the ability to talk and express needs. Eating, swallowing and walking become difficult. They also need full-time help with personal care. They are especially vulnerable to infections and pneumonia. Care needs are usually beyond what you can provide at home, even with assistance.
Some ways you can help wherever your loved one is living is by enhancing quality of life and dignity. You can express your caring by:
- Playing your loved one’s favorite music
- Looking through photo albums together
- Rubbing scented lotion on the skin
- Sitting outside together
Taking Care of You
Through all stages of dementia, remember to take care of yourself as the caregiver. Connect with other caregivers for support, ask and accept help, allow time for yourself to do what you enjoy and stay healthy through a nutritious diet and exercise.
When It’s Time for Advanced Memory Care
By the time your loved one has reached the middle and late stages of dementia, advanced care is often needed. At McKnight Place, our dedicated staff and memory care specialists are equipped to serve senior adults of all cognitive abilities with unparalleled experience in the fields of dementia and Alzheimer’s care.
McKnight Place’s Forget-Me-Not care program focuses on the interests and abilities of each resident. Our practices are built on knowing each resident’s individual strengths and customizing an active care program accordingly.
Come See For Yourself
For more information or to schedule a personal tour, please call 314-993-3333 (Assisted Living & Memory Care) or 314-993-2221 (Skilled Nursing).