(ARA) – Approximately 19 million Americans have a family member who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. There are seven stages of Alzheimer’s, and the kind of care most beneficial to the patient varies from stage to stage.

It’s important for family members to understand what kind of care is most appropriate for their loved one’s needs at each stage, according to nursing home leader Beverly Health care.

Early Stages

The first two stages of the disease are difficult for family and friends to recognize: the person begins to experience forgetfulness, relies heavily on memory aids like lists and reminder notes, and makes a concerted effort to conceal the problem.

During the third stage, symptoms become noticeable to family and friends. It is usually at this point that a family member will intervene and the disease is diagnosed.

Individuals with Alzheimer’s in the first three stages can usually continue to live at home.

However, during stage three, Beverly Healthcare, which has introduced a special Alzheimer’s care program that focuses on providing care based on the stage of the disease, recommends the family begin to plan for placement of their loved one in an environment that provides around-the-clock care and supervision, such as a nursing home.

Everyday tasks such as cooking, cleaning and taking care of personal finances becomes increasingly difficult as the disease progresses to stage four. It is generally at this stage that the nursing home option becomes a recommended alternative for the safety and well-being of the loved one.

Advanced Stages

Stage five patients are more likely to realize that something is not quite right. Frightened by their deteriorating memory, they become intently focused on finding their way “home” to a place where everything will once again make sense.

Often confused and searching for home, patients begin wandering and may try to leave the nursing home. By stage six, most patients begin to lose their ability to communicate and need direct assistance with dressing, toileting and eating.

“Patients in stages five and six can benefit most from placement in a dedicated, secure Alzheimer’s care unit,” says Ed McMahon, Director of Alzheimer’s Care and Quality Life, Beverly Healthcare.

Ideally, the unit should be designed to look and feel like home to ease the patient’s fear and confusion. Highly personalized care that is adaptable to the individual’s view of reality at that moment is the most effective and beneficial to the patient.

In the seventh and final stage of Alzheimer’s disease, the patient deteriorates into a vegetative state. Often, these patients must transfer from an Alzheimer’s unit back to a traditional nursing home setting to receive a more intensive level of medical care and supervision.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for this frightening disease.

However, family members can take steps to make sure their loved one is receiving the appropriate kind of treatment in a safe environment. Understanding the progression of the disease can help point the way toward the best care.

Courtesy of ARA Content