There are several helpful caregiving tips for dementia and the varying stages that help offset the concerns and questions that many caregivers face.
It can be difficult to determine the most helpful way to care for someone as they experience the phases of dementia. Depending on what stage they’re in, they may seem fairly independent. However, their behaviors can change to needing care around the clock. How do you adjust your care as changes arise?
The Stages of Dementia
Whether your loved one is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia-causing illness, familiarizing yourself with the seven clinically recognized stages of dementia can help you arrange the proper care at each stage of the disease.
The seven stages can be grouped into various levels of care based on whether the person is in early-, middle-, or late-stage dementia.
Caregiving Tips for Dementia
Before Care is Needed
STAGE 1: No Cognitive Impairment
The onset of dementia actually begins with no symptoms. Mental functioning is normal. There are no signs of memory loss, behavioral problems, or other changes.
STAGE 2: Very Mild Cognitive Decline
Impairment is so mild it might appear as occasional forgetfulness and go mostly unnoticed. Many assume it’s just age-related forgetfulness, and it wouldn’t be diagnosed as dementia.
Care likely isn’t needed at either of these two stages. The person’s mental state is sharp enough to function fully independently.
Early Stages : When Caregiving Begins
STAGE 3: Mild Cognitive Decline
As memory and cognitive problems become more regular and noticeable, it’s important that a person sees a doctor to begin to understand if dementia is the cause. Signs of mild cognitive impairment include:
- Impaired work performance
- Memory loss and forgetfulness
- Verbal repetition
- Impaired organization and concentration
- Trouble with complex tasks and problem solving
- Difficulties with driving
This level of decline can be a sign of future dementia complications. Getting the proper medical attention and relieving the person’s stress should be at the center of caregiving efforts.
If a diagnosis can be made early, your role as a caregiver may involve working with the person to make decisions for their legal, financial, and long-term care plan. Research and seek resources to educate and empower yourselves.
STAGE 4: Moderate Cognitive Decline
Mental impairment is clearly observed and points more clearly to dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. In addition to the symptoms listed above, caregivers should look for the following symptoms:
- Social withdrawal
- Emotional moodiness
- Lack of responsiveness
- Reduced intellectual acuity
- Trouble with routine tasks
- Denial of symptoms
At this stage it can feel difficult to determine how much assistance the person needs. As a caregiver, it becomes increasingly important to observe the person’s behavior. Do what you can to counteract the negative effects of dementia. Remove stress from routine tasks and allow the person to express emotions they’re feeling, without taking them personally or trying to fix everything.
Have conversations about how you can help with daily tasks and activities. Work with the person to develop coping strategies, and agree on how you can maximize their independence.
Determine where and how you should step in by considering factors such as the person’s safety, causes for frustration, how they prefer to communicate, and how you work best together.
Mid-Stage Dementia: Caregiving Increases
STAGE 5: Moderately Severe Cognitive Decline
At this stage, a person may no longer be able to carry out their normal activities on their own, such as dressing or bathing. Many professionals mark stage 5 as mid-stage dementia.
Additional symptoms at this stage include:
- Pronounced memory loss, including memory of personal details and current events
- Confusion and forgetfulness
- Further reduced mental acuity and problem-solving ability
STAGE 6: Severe Cognitive Decline
At this stage the person needs help to perform even basic daily activities, such as dressing, eating, using the toilet, and other self care.
Further symptoms might include:
- Sleep difficulties
- Personality changes including paranoia or delusions
- Pronounced memory loss
- Inability to recognize loved ones
With both of these phases, you’ll need to take on more responsibility. Daily routines will need to be established and to evolve as needed. Structure becomes increasingly important to avoid causing more confusion or frustration for the person. There are activities you can plan to reduce symptoms such as agitation and wandering.
If you notice significant, concerning changes to their health or behavior, check with a doctor to rule out other issues or medication side effects.
You may find that you need more support at this stage. Seek support groups or therapy for yourself. Research services that may help you care for the person. Ask for help from friends and family to manage care in whatever way is best.
Late-Stage Dementia: Caregiving is Essential
STAGE 7: Very Severe Cognitive Decline
At this stage, the person is essentially unable to care for themselves. They likely suffer from impairment with their communication, as well as their motor skills.
As the dementia progresses, intensive, full-time care will be needed. Focus on maintaining the person’s quality of life and dignity. Although the person may lose most of their ability to express themselves, you can connect with them through the senses.
Keep them comfortable and stimulate the senses through touch, sound, sight, taste, and smell. Comfort can stem from playing their favorite music, sitting outside, using a pleasant-smelling lotion on their skin, or reading to them.
In terms of their physical health, your focus will need to be on the following:
- Proper nutrition and hydration
- Bowel and bladder function
- Pain management
- Quickly treating illnesses or infections
- Issues related to being stationary for extended periods
Support at Every Stage
Our exceptional staff at Kensington Park are a resource in supporting you and your loved one as continual memory care becomes essential.
If you feel that you can no longer manage high quality care, call us today. Learn how our care is customized to your loved one’s level of memory loss.
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