Friday, October 8, 2010

Caring for Parents with Alzheimers

Identifying the Seven Stages of Alzheimers

When an elder parent is diagnosed with Alzheimers it can be a scary, emotional and stressful time.  By understanding the process of the disease you may feel more prepared to cope with the changes that may occur with your aging parent.

The progress of Alzheimer's has been documented in an endless amount of patients, and experts have found that most of them will go through seven stages of disease progression. As with any medical issue, the duration and symptoms might vary, but the general decline of Alzheimer's remains the same.
  1. No Impairment. Individuals at this stage show no marked decline in their cognitive function. No memory problems show up on a regular basis. In fact, your loved one might seem absolutely fine.
  2. Very Mild Impairment. Forgetfulness begins at this stage. Lapses in memory and basic thoughts might occur, such as familiar words or names. Forgetting small details, like if they took their medication that morning or where they put their glasses, might be more common.
  3. Mild Decline. Usually, at this point, family and friends have begun to notice the symptoms. A person who was once able to organize and plan now seems lost with the details. Losing things is more common, and they might begin having performance issues at work.
  4. Moderate Decline. In medical interviews, the problems are now clear. Forgetting personal history, recent events, and how to handle complex tasks, such as paying bills or planning dinners, happen much more frequently. Your loved one might be very aware something is wrong, and that leads to acting withdrawn or subdued in social situations.
  5. Moderately Severe Decline. Major details, such as their address or phone number, become hard to remember. While they may remember their own name and the names of those important to them, such as a spouse or a child, this stage of Alzheimer's begins to etch away at basic information, such as the current date, time, or season. Day-to-day tasks, such as cooking, might not be safe any longer.
  6. Severe Decline. At this point, your loved one might be losing their short-term memory. They may need more help with basic activities, such as dressing and using the toilet. They might also experience behavioral changes, such as feeling suspicious or experiencing hallucinations. Someone at this stage might engage in repetitive behaviors or wander away, only to become confused and lost.
  7. Very Severe Decline. In this final stage, they may lose the ability to speak coherently. They may need help with general hygiene, and may eventually lose muscle coordination and the ability to control movement. Their muscles typically grow rigid, the reflexes become unpredictable, and eventually even swallowing could become be impaired.

According to the Alzheimer's Association, Alzheimer's is currently the seventh leading cause of death. Someone develops Alzheimer's every 70 seconds, and though it more often affects the elderly, some individuals develop Alzheimer's in their 50s, 40s, or even their 30s.

Barbara McVicker is one of the nation’s leading eldercare experts and national speakers for some of the largest companies, organizations, and healthcare institutions.

Barbara is based in Columbus, OH. With additional offices in Roanoke, VA, Madison, WI and Los Angeles, CA, Barbara travels frequently and is available for taped or live appearance or phone interview upon request.

If you have questions or would like to schedule Barbara for your next event, please contact Barbara.

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