November is National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. It’s a good time to learn what you can expect as your loved one progresses through stages of Alzheimer’s disease and how the support you give them can ease the journey for you both. It’s also an opportunity to understand the benefits of memory care, when it’s time to make the transition, and learn about Clearwater Living’s unique philosophy of Empowered Living in their Clearbrook Memory Support neighborhoods.
Understanding the impact of Alzheimer’s disease
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, Alzheimer’s disease is becoming more common as the general population ages. It usually affects people older than 65. A small number of people in their 30s and 40s have “early-onset” Alzheimer’s disease. People live for an average of eight years after their symptoms first appear. Some live as long as 20 years with the disease. Want to learn more? Check out our blog, “5 Facts About Alzheimer’s You Should Know”.
Stages of Alzheimer’s disease:
Early Stage:Individuals begin to notice changes in their ability to remember things and might find it hard to learn something new or follow a conversation. Concentrating becomes harder. Getting lost is common. Difficulty with communicating the right words makes conversations frustrating.
- Strategies for caregivers:Don’t correct the person. Give them time to find the right words. Use declarative statements instead of questions. Understand that the person is aware of their difficulties and needs support, not impatience. Accompany them on physician visits and other important appointments where detailed information is provided and take detailed notes. Keep social groups small so there is less opportunity for them to be overwhelmed emotionally.
Middle Stage:The loss of cognitive and functional ability increases, though many are still aware of their condition. Memory problems are pronounced; individuals often can no longer identify family and friends. They may have difficulty organizing thoughts, making choices, or keeping up grooming and hygiene to maintain good health. Adequate sleep may become a problem as this stage progresses. There may be instances of wandering. Caregivers and families will spend much more time attending to the person and often begin to realize it’s time to consider memory care. Of all stages of Alzheimer’s disease, this can seem the longest.
- Strategies for the caregivers:Use reminders and visual cues. Maintain eye contact, speak slowly and clearly, and use gentle physical gestures to reinforce your message. Play their favorite music. Acknowledge their emotions. Keep things simple: simple clothes, simple hairstyles. Safety-proof the home. Pay attention to dental needs, foot care, regular medications, etc. Remember your loved one is not trying to frustrate you.
Late Stage:Increased mental and physical deterioration requiring 24-hour care. Severe impairment in memory. Cannot orient to time and place. Unable to engage in recognizable speech. Needs help with eating (swallowing may become difficult) and are often incontinent. Cannot walk without assistance, sit without support, smile, or hold their head up. Weight loss is common. Difficulty communicating pain.
- Strategies for the caregiver: Connect through the senses: touch, smell, vision, hearing. Play their favorite music. Reminisce to help them feel they are still relevant. Get outside often to relieve anxiety and encourage healthy sleep. Serve bite-sized foods and use visual cues in a quiet, comfortable setting. Follow physician’s directions for physical care (how to safely lift and turn a person, how to maintain hydration, toileting, monitoring for pain, etc.).
Options for caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease
In the early stages of the disease, it is possible and common for the individual to live independently, at home or in an independent living community. As the disease progresses to the middle stage, individuals living at home may require the assistance of a caregiver (either in-home care or a loved one) or may benefit from the assisted living community environment. The later stages of the disease pose unique needs and challenges, so around the clock care is necessary, either from a caregiver or in a memory support community.
Choosing memory care: How Clearwater Living can help
At Clearwater Living, memory support isn’t just a program we provide. We consider Clearbrook Memory Support to be “neighborhoods” where our care partners focus on the whole person, from personalized care plans and activities, to emotional connections and assistance. We collaborate and partner with families to ensure a comprehensive plan of care and support for each individual resident going through the stages of Alzheimer’s disease. We call our approach Empowered Living.
- Using life experiences and strengths to invoke a renewed sense of purpose
- Modifying activities to meet each resident’s needs and interests and encourage participation
- Providing meaningful opportunities for daily growth, movement, nourishment, and purposeful engagement through the stages of Alzheimer’s disease
- Maintaining thriving care teams that are trained, compassionate, and have a desire to serve
- Featuring a secure, intimate and easy-to-navigate setting that encourages movement and alleviates confusion and agitation (large windows, high ceilings for light-filled environments, large outdoor courtyards and more)
- Providing an enhanced Savor culinary experience offering dignity, independence, choices, and specialized diets without compromising on flavor or presentation (special features include healthy finger food options for those who want to wander instead of sitting still for meals; place settings designed for dignity; sensory experiences to help stimulate appetite; and some meals prepared in Clearbrook to invite a feeling of home and incite appetite).
At Clearwater Living, we create experiences that celebrate each person’s relevance. Wherever you and your family are on this journey, we invite you to see how our Clearbrook Memory Support neighborhood can help empower your loved one to engage with their life, with you and the community in a meaningful way. Find the Clearwater Living senior community nearest you and call us today to set up a visit.