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Stages of dementia: Tips for care partners

Lola Danielson Amendt | Nov 23, 2021
Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or memory loss can be difficult. Separating the disease continuum (unnoticeable changes to problems with mental and physical abilities) into stages can be helpful in navigating care. And as an individual’s needs and abilities change, it’s important to care for yourself, too. Here are some tips for care partners in each stage...

Early: In the mild (or early) stage, most people can function independently in many areas but likely to require assistance with some activities to maximize independence and remain safe.

  • Monitor shifts in functioning
  • Prepare for appointments by:
    • Choosing times together
    • Discussing and monitoring changes
    • Noting questions and concerns
    • Reviewing care plans as a team
  • Optimize the person’s sense of well-being through:
    • Physical exercise
    • Mental stimulation
    • Social interactions

Middle: In the moderate stage, which is often the longest stage, individuals may have difficulties communicating and performing routine tasks, including activities of daily living and personality changes.

  • Maintain the person’s sense of self as you assist with daily care
  • Care partners must modify communication in order to best connect
  • Educate those close to you about the disease, which may mean taking the initiative to contact family and friends
  • Discuss adjustments to special events/holiday traditions
  • Acknowledge that the disease will change the nature of your relationship
  • Structure and routine are important in the middle stage – you may have to modify activities to meet the person’s changing abilities
  • Begin considering options for care: In-home care, adult day programs, respite care, or residential settings, such as skilled nursing, licensed assisted living, or licensed assisted living with dementia care

Late stage: In the severe stage, individuals need help with activities of daily living and are likely to require around-the-clock care. The effects of Alzheimer’s disease on an individual’s physical health become especially apparent in this stage.

  • Remember that a person isn’t “lost” to the disease –– remember a holistic view of the late stage
  • Incorporate physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of care
  • Increase focus on the person’s self with person-centered care, and include the person in providing care
  • Understand that the care role is more physically demanding at this stage
  • Taking care of yourself needs to be a priority
  • Verbal messages shift to non-verbal cues
  • Focus on remaining abilities
As you care for others, make sure to take time to care for yourself. Here are some self-care tips:
  • Find time for yourself – schedule it!
  • Know what community resources are available
    • Alzheimer’s Association
    • Senior Linkage Line
  • Become an educated caregiver
  • Get help and find support
    • Ask for specific help from friends and family
    • Join support groups or Facebook groups
  • Take care of yourself – eat well, sleep, exercise
  • Manage your level of stress – say “no” to things but try to keep involved in what gives you joy and purpose
  • Accept changes as they occur
  • Make legal and financial plans
  • Know you’re doing your best – don’t be too hard on yourself
  • Visit your doctor regularly – you don’t do anyone any favors if you make yourself sick

Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or memory loss can be challenging, but it can also be extremely rewarding. And you don’t have to do it alone. We’re here for you.

Need some encouragement? Check out these nine inspiring quotes about memory loss.

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