A dementia diagnosis can be devastating -- not only for the person with the disease, but for those who love him, too. “There’s a grieving that occurs. You haven’t lost your loved one, but the person you know is going to change,” says Rosanne M. Leipzig, MD, professor of geriatric medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.
If you or someone close to you has Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia, here are six steps to help you deal with the disease now and in the future.
When your loved one is in this early phase, he won't have any symptoms that you can spot. Only a PET scan, an imaging test that shows how the brain is working, can reveal whether he's got Alzheimer's.
As he moves into the next 6 stages, your friend or relative with Alzheimer's will see more and more changes in his thinking and reasoning.
Stage 2: Very Mild Changes
You still might not notice anything amiss in your loved one's behavior, but he may be picking up on small differences, things that even a doctor doesn't catch. This could include forgetting a word or misplacing objects.
Keep in mind that these symptoms might not be Alzheimer's at all, but simply normal changes from aging.
Stage 3: Mild Decline
It's at this point that you start to notice changes in your loved one's thinking and reasoning, such as:
Forgets something he just read
Asks the same question over and over
Has more and more trouble making plans or organizing
Can't remember names when meeting new people
You can help by being your loved one's "memory" for him, making sure he pays bills and gets to appointments on time. You can also suggest he ease stress by retiring from work and putting his legal and financial affairs in order.
Stage 4: Moderate Decline
During this period, the problems in thinking and reasoning that you noticed in stage 3 get more obvious, and new issues appear. Your friend or family member might:
Forget details about himself
Have trouble putting the right date and amount on a check
Forget what month or season it is
Have trouble cooking meals or even ordering from a menu
You can help with everyday chores and his safety. Make sure he isn't driving anymore, and that someone isn't trying to take advantage of him financially.