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Caring for an Elderly Parent with Alzheimer’s Disease

Updated on October 4, 2015

Prevalence of Alzheimer’s

The Alzheimer’s Association reports that some in the United States develops Alzheimer’s disease every 67 seconds. In fact, as of 2015, 5.3 million Americans are estimated to have this disease. Of these 5.1 million are aged 65 years and above. Given these statistics, chances are that most families will at some point need to cope with an elderly member being diagnosed with the disorder.

Stages of the Disease

According to, a non-profit organization that works in the arena of mental health and well-being, Alzheimer’s patients usually progress through three stages:

Stage 1: This is the early or mild stage and usually lasts anywhere between two and four years. Symptoms at this stage include memory loss of recent experiences and events.

Stage 2: This is the middle or moderate stage and could last anywhere from two to ten years. This is when the cognitive and behavioral problems become quite evident.

Stage 3: This is the late or severe stage and could last from one to three years and more. Cognitive problems become even more pronounced, with the patient being unable to differentiate between the past and present and being unable to perform the activities of daily living.

Changes that Occur in AD Patients

The most prominent changes that occur as the disease progress are those that occur in the patient’s communication skills, personality and behavior. The reason communication is affected is that patients have memory problems, which makes it difficult to remember the right words or even forget what they want to say. They may also have problems with attention, loss of the train of thought, and concomitant frustration due to these issues, says the NIH’s Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral Center.

In addition, since AD patients suffer from the destruction of brain cells, they may also experience depression, anxiety, hallucinations and delusions, paranoia. However, you will also notice that the person will have their bad days and their good days.

Impact of Caring for the Disease

The unfortunate reality is that caring for someone with Alzheimer’s does have its toll on the caregiver, both physically and emotionally. “In 2014, friends and family of people with Alzheimer's and other dementias provided an estimated 17.9 billion hours of unpaid care,” says the 2015 Alzheimer's Disease Facts And Figures report by the Alzheimer’s Association.

The report goes on to say that 60% of caregivers report that the levels of emotional stress are high to very high, while 40% suffer from depression.

Time to Make a Decision

The most difficult thing about caring for an AD patient is watching their personality and behavior change to something you would have never thought possible. Violence, wandering, inappropriate outbursts and inability to perform everyday tasks, such as bathing, dressing or even eating, are all too common, says WebMD’s Alzheimer’s Disease Health Center.

While coping is difficult, it is important not to blame yourself either for the changes or if you are unable to handle the changes. As the disease progresses, it might be a good idea to think about how best the AD patient can be cared for. This is where long-term care facilities can be a great help.

Choosing an Assisted Living Facility

As the disease progresses, the patient will need 24x7 care, which might become overwhelming for family members. Remember that it isn’t a sign of your strength or your love for your parent if you do decide to enlist professional help. Instead, consider what is best for your ailing parent, says New Jersey based assisted living services provider, Seacrest Village. There basically are two types of facilities that you can choose from – assisted living and nursing home care.

Assisted living is a good option for those who require help with activities of daily living, since the professionally trained staff at such facilities will be able to offer round to clock help, even with medication. If the medical care needs are higher, nursing homes could be a better option, since the staff here includes medical professionals, including physical and occupational therapists.


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    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

      Very informative. I know firsthand the impact of caring for the disease; that comparative table is scary, but the story must be told. Thanks for the good job you've done on this topic.