Aging is an unavoidable part of life that changes a person physically, mentally, and emotionally. Unfortunately, most people are not prepared to watch their parents go through the aging process. In many situations, children will become caregivers for their elderly parents. This role reversal causes stress even if the elderly parent is somewhat healthy. However, caring for an elderly parent with Alzheimer's disease can be incredibly challenging. If you are part of the 15 million people caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's disease, understanding this condition is key to providing effective care. Proper knowledge on the 3 stages of this condition will ensure you provide quality, loving care to your elderly parent with Alzheimer's disease.
Stage 1: Early/Mild
An elderly parent with the early/mild stage of Alzheimer's disease will still have their independence. Your parent may be able to drive, bathe, cook, and clean normally, but they may complain of frequent memory lapses. During this stage, you, other family members, and close friends may notice the following changes in your parent's behavior:
- Difficulty remembering names
- Trouble finding the right word or phrase when speaking or writing
- Forgetting information that was just read
- Misplacing or losing objects
- Difficulty planning and organizing
- Asking for others to repeat questions
- Coordination issues
- Slight depression
If your parent is showing one or more of the above signs, consult a physician. It is important to note that displaying these signs is not a definite indicator that your parent is suffering with this early stage of Alzheimer's disease.
Caring for a parent in this early stage of the disease will require patience and compassion. Since they will still have the ability to complete most simple tasks, professional care may not be necessary. Of course, if you work away from the home and have other responsibilities, consider hiring in-home nursing professionals to care for your parent.
Stage 2: Middle/Mild
Since Alzheimer's disease is progressive, your parent's condition will worsen into more involved stages. The second stage of the disease damages the nerve cells in the brain, causing an increased number of memory lapses. During this stage, your parent may even forget to complete simple tasks, such as bathing themselves or getting dressed. Your parent will not be able to remember important details about themselves, such as their history, birthday, address, or phone number. This can cause your parent to feel frustrated and depressed. Many patients in this second stage of Alzheimer's disease begin to act out physically due to their frustration. In addition, some patients in this stage of the disease are unable to control their bladders and bowels.
With all the physical, mental, and emotional changes the disease causes, your parent will not be able to live independently. Although there is not medication or surgery to cure the disease, certain medications are available to help slow down the progression. Your parent's physician may prescribe medications called cholinesterase inhibitors to your parent while in the early and middle stages of Alzheimer's.
Cholinesterase inhibitors prevent the breakdown of chemicals in the brain that are responsible for memory and learning. While these medications do have some side effects, they can delay the progression of Alzheimer's symptoms 6 to 12 months. If you are uncomfortable caring for your parent during this stage of the disease, consult physicians to determine if an assisted living center is the right option for your parent's needs. Assisted living centers will provide supervision and medical care to patients suffering with this progressive disease. An assisted living center like The Village At Morrisons Cove can provide you with information on what services they offer.
Stage 3: Late/Severe
If your parent is in the last stage of Alzheimer's disease, they will require full-time supervision and care due to the worsening of symptoms. Your parent will most likely be experiencing the following during this severe stage of the disease:
- Memory loss
- Concentration issues
- Loss of Speech
- Incontinence/Inability to use the bathroom
- Difficulty walking, chewing, swallowing
- Aggressive behavior
This late stage of Alzheimer's disease also increases your parent's risk of developing dangerous illnesses, such as pneumonia and infections from bedsores. Considering Alzheimer's is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States, your parent will require around-the-clock care during this severe stage of the disease. During this stage, your parent will benefit from staying in an assisted living center that offers hospice care for this final stage of Alzheimer's disease. Hospice care will not only provide medical care and love, but also provide you and other family members with the support you will need while watching your parent's brain shut down due to the disease.
Reversing roles to care for your elderly parent can be a stressful experience, especially when they are moving through the stages of Alzheimer's disease. With proper understanding and the help of professional care facilities, you can care for your parent in an effective, compassionate manner.