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Adjusting to the Progression of Alzheimer’s Disease

Written by OurParents Staff
 about the author
4 minute readLast updated April 20, 2023

First, there is the initial shock of the Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Your parent has the disease, and now you have no idea what to expect. While you come to terms with the new reality of your loved one’s illness, you will undoubtedly have questions about what’s to come.

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How to adjust to the progression of Alzheimer’s disease

Read on for our advice on how to adjust — both emotionally and practically — to the progression of the disease:

Stages 1-3: Mild

There are seven stages of Alzheimer’s disease, ranging from normal brain health (stage 1) to very severe (stage 7). The Alzheimer’s Association reports that it takes an average of four to eight years, sometimes much longer, for an individual to progress from diagnosis to the final stage.
The very mild stage (stage 2) is not much different from normal signs of aging. Dad may have forgotten why he walked into a room or Mom may be regularly misplacing her glasses. But the increasing frequency of these occurrences is a sign of things to come.
The mild memory loss (stage 3) will become more worrisome. Your parent may forget to keep appointments, have difficulty remembering people’s names, become increasingly confused and lose the thread of conversation.
How you can help:
As your parent adjusts to living with Alzheimer’s, they may insist they don’t need help. It’s still a good idea to check in more often and be available when they do need your assistance. Encourage your parent to get all of their legal paperwork in order, such as creating an advance directive, designating general durable and healthcare powers of attorney, preparing HIPAA authorization forms, and updating their will to ensure it is done in accordance with their wishes.
Also, make sure to savor your time together. Go out to dinner. Host a family reunion. Take in a ballgame or play. Don’t put off until tomorrow the good times you can have today.

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Stage 4: Moderate

The moderate decline of stage 4 is when Alzheimer’s begins to have a major effect on your parent’s life. You may notice that Dad gets lost driving to once-familiar places or Mom is having lapses in judgment. In some cases, memory lapses can be dangerous, such as forgetting to turn off the stove or leaving the water running in the bathtub.
Your parent may also begin experiencing changes in behavior. Dad might become depressed as the reality of the disease begins to sink in and Mom could become frustrated by her forgetfulness.
How you can help:
Assist your parent with regular tasks such as buying groceries, cleaning the house, managing their medications, and paying bills. If safety becomes an issue, arrange for in-home assistance.
Be kind and patient with your parent. Keep them active and energized by continuing to plan various activities that help them live in the now.

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Stages 5-7: Severe

The last stages of Alzheimer’s are difficult for both the caregiver and parent. In a moderately severe decline (stage 5), individuals experience greater confusion and forgetfulness and are at greater risk of wandering. Sometime between this stage and severe decline (stage 6), they will likely need round-the-clock care and help with activities of daily living (ADLs), such as bathing, getting dressed, and eating.
In stage 7, it’s likely patients will experience a very severe decline — including loss of mobility, the ability to speak, and even the ability to swallow — in the final stage of the disease.
How you can help:
Do what you can to assist your parent, but recognize when you need to turn to others for help. Families often realize that a memory care community is the best place to meet a parent’s needs. Through these final stages, it’s important to be there for your loved one, holding their hand and offering comfort and love.
Don’t only take care of your parent — also take care of yourself. Talk to mental health professionals if you need help during this difficult time.


Meet the Author
OurParents Staff

The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical, legal or financial advice or create a professional relationship between A Place for Mom (of which OurParents is a trademark) and the reader.  Always seek the advice of your health care provider, attorney or financial advisor with respect to any particular matter and do not act or refrain from acting on the basis of anything you have read on this site.  Links to third-party websites are only for the convenience of the reader; A Place for Mom does not recommend or endorse the contents of the third-party sites.