How to Detect Alzheimer’s in a Senior Loved One Before the Doctor’s Visit
Early Alzheimer’s detection is crucial, and there are a few signs and symptoms that you can watch for, before moving forward with a medical exam.
However, if you’ve noticed changes in your senior loved one that might allude to something serious, a physician will be able to properly diagnose.
We want to help you understand the stages of memory loss that are brought on by Alzheimer’s disease so that you can observe whether your senior loved one may need medical attention.
What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
According to the National Institute of Health, Alzheimer’s Disease is an “irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and, eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks.” Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia in older adults.
What are the stages of Alzheimer’s?
There are generally three stages of Alzheimer’s Disease: early, middle, and late. These stages are also sometimes referred to as mild, moderate, and severe.
- During the early or mild stages, your loved one can go from showing no symptoms to mild changes or mild decline. You may start to notice subtle changes in their health and behavior.
- Middle or moderate stage Alzheimer’s usually goes from mild decline to moderate decline and from there to a moderately severe decline. During these changes, they may begin to need more assistance throughout their daily lives.
- Late-stage Alzheimer’s or severe Alzheimer’s takes the person from moderately severe decline, severe decline, and ultimately to very severe decline. At this point, they likely need around-the-clock care and assistance.
What common signs and symptoms are detected with each stage of Alzheimer’s?
The multiple stages of Alzheimer’s Disease vary from no outward signs to severe decline. The symptoms associated with each stage can go from asymptomatic to severe.
- Normal Outward Behavior – During this time there wouldn’t be any signs to speak of, to see symptoms an imaging test such as a PET scan may be helpful.
- Very Mild Changes – These include slight shifts that would be easy to miss. Occasionally forgetting words or picking up and putting down objects without remembering why are early signs.
- Mild Decline – This is usually the point when family and friends begin to notice an issue. Possible symptoms include forgetting the names of people they’ve just met, asking the same question over and over, and struggling to make plans or organize things.
- Moderate Decline – Symptoms become more obvious and intense. A loved one might forget details about themselves, have trouble cooking for themselves, or even ordering from a menu. Usually around this time families consider whether a loved one is safe to live independently.
- Moderately Severe Decline – Your loved one might be confused about the season or have difficulty getting themselves dressed appropriately. They might also struggle to remember basics such as their phone number or address.
- Severe Decline – Your senior loved one may recognize faces but not names and they may struggle with using the bathroom independently or doing other common daily tasks.
- Very Severe Decline – Eating, walking, and sitting up independently will have faded at this point. Communication from your loved one will be far more limited and they will need more extensive assistance.
The types of diagnostic tests and early detection for an Alzheimer’s diagnosis
Early detection of Alzheimer’s can come at any time, but a full diagnosis is determined either by a primary care physician, a neurologist (a doctor specializing in brain care), or a geriatrician (a doctor specializing in older adults). There are several ways a diagnosis can be reached.
The first step is attempting to rule out other factors that might contribute or cause concerning symptoms. It will need to be established that the symptoms are not the result of medication interactions, depression, or other physical ailments.
The testing aspect of determining an Alzheimer’s diagnosis usually involves a multifaceted approach. To confirm an Alzheimer’s diagnosis generally involves memory testing, brain imaging tests, and laboratory tests.
Options for care after detection and diagnosis
Once an early Alzheimer’s detection and diagnosis have been reached there are memory care communities that are specially designed to address the specialized needs and concerns of seniors living with Alzheimer’s disease.
Memory care communities also help seniors living with other forms of dementia or memory ailments. They are unique in that they generally provide 24-hour care specialized staff, and a secure but comfortable environment.
Adaptive Stages of Care
Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, meaning that as time goes on care needs will increase. Memory care can provide adaptive stages of care to meet the needs of your loved one as their needs and abilities change and shift. This allows them to more comfortably and smoothly age in place.
Individuals experiencing permanent degenerative memory loss need specialized care. The staff that work in memory care have received training to best address the needs of loved ones experiencing memory loss. They know how to recognize signs and symptoms of progression and best practices in adapting to the needs of those experiencing memory loss.
The attention involved in caring for an individual experiencing memory loss can be stressful and exhausting. Living in a memory care community means that individualized attention and care can be provided because the different areas of responsibility can be shared across staff and monitored by a dedicated care manager.
Living in a senior living community means that many activities and opportunities for socialization are built into the daily life enrichment of seniors. Social interaction is a key component for maintaining brain health.
When loved ones experience Alzheimer’s disease there is also the potential for other health events to occur. Living in a community that can specialize in memory care lessens the opportunity for external physical ailments and provides immediate access to onsite therapies when necessary. Whether these are memory-related therapies or physical therapies the convenience and safety of these in-house services is unparalleled.
Early detection of Alzheimer’s is key to knowing if your loved one needs additional care. If your loved one has received an Alzheimer’s diagnosis knowing what to expect and how best to care for them will be high on your priorities list.
Contact The Kensington Falls Church to schedule a tour and speak with our caring and dedicated professionals about the inclusive and warm community that we have. Our team holds a Promise to love and care for your family, as we do our own.
We would love to share the ins and outs of our dedicated memory care neighborhoods and the services that we can provide.
Additional Recommended Reading:
- Caregiver Tips: Minimizing the Stress of Sundowning Syndrome
- Brain Stimulating Home Activities for Alzheimer’s and Dementia
- Senior Moments, or Signs of Deeper Memory Loss?