The Tricky Stages of Alzheimer's: Coping with Behavioral Symptoms
Last updated: August 2023
I remember the first time we went to the neurologist and listened to the doctor explain what mom was recently diagnosed with, it was early-onset Alzheimers and my mom was 58. The doctor very nonchalantly went over how we as a family should respond to my mom's "changes."
He told us to be generous with patience and to be understanding as we experience all the different stages this new disease would bring. What I do not remember the doctor mentioning were the trickiest parts of said stages that occur throughout this cognitive disease.
The stages of Alzheimer's
While traditionally split into 3 stages of Alzheimer's, there is also the Reisberg's stages of Alzheimer's with 7, and they are as follows:
- Stage 1: Normal Outward Behavior
- Stage 2: Very Mild Changes
- Stage 3: Mild Decline
- Stage 4: Moderate Decline
- Stage 5: Moderately Severe Decline
- Stage 6: Severe Decline
- Stage 7: Very Severe Decline
Super general #amiright? As a late 20 something-year-old caring for my mom with Alzheimer's, I was clueless as to the behavioral changes that would occur which led me to define those stages as TRICKY!
The tricky parts of Alzheimers
Phew! Deep breaths and strap in everyone. The different stages of Alzheimer's are not akin to a timeline or even to a specific order; however, in my humble opinion, each TRICKY stage is similar to a behavior or action. So what does that mean? Well very simply, once we understand the behavior we are dealing with then we can determine the care accordingly.
Take everything stage - kleptomania
Right never wrong stage - argumentative
I go everywhere you go stage - shadow
Cause + effect stage - tantrum
Keyed up stage - paranoia
Your attitude - to every one of the 7 stages!
Four ways to give care according to the TRICKY stages
1. Keep a safe and calm space
Create a dementia-friendly environment that is minimalistic-inspired. In my 10 year experience, I have found creating a dementia-friendly environment to be the best way to encourage both a safe and calm space. A minimalistic space can also help to keep kleptomania at bay when everything has a place.
2. Find liberation through letting go
Try not to sweat the small stuff. There will be arguments and there will be tantrums. For me, coming to terms with the reality of the disease's repetitive patterns was liberating. I felt more relaxed around my mom to just not sweat any repetitive actions that were sure to happen.
3. Keep your LOWD engaged
Keeping my loved one engaged in activities they enjoyed even if it was the most mundane, like folding socks, allowed me to find some independence. Combating paranoia and addressing the fear behind the anxiety helped me to understand how to make a resolution.
For example, my mom used to repeat throughout the day that she wanted to go home. I understood this to mean that something in the space did not make her feel "at home." Knowing her favorite color was red and that she was always happy seeing it I found creative ways to add the color to every room. Placing a red apron in the kitchen or red roses in the living room helped to keep my mom comfortable in the environment.
4. Make mindfulness a priority.
Focus on your breathing or meditate for at least 5 minutes a day. The absolutely most important thing about handling this tricky caregiving life is to make space for ourselves. Prioritizing our health, mentally and physically is the force behind our patience and energy level.
It's tricky to rock THIS LIFE, to rock THIS LIFE this CAREGIVER LIFE
It's tricky... it's tricky (tricky) tricky (tricky)
So how about you? I want to hear how you motivate yourself to tackle the trickiest parts of the caregiving journey? Comment below... or share your story with the community. Maybe it will inspire others!
Have you or your loved one been diagnosed with Mild cognitive impairment?