How to understand Alzheimer’s disease and explain it to others

understand alzheimer

In order to properly care for a person with Alzheimer’s disease and help those around you to know what this condition is all about, you need to understand it yourself first. For instance, did you know there are three main stages to Alzheimer?

Stages of Alzheimer’s disease

  1. Mild

This stage is characterized by memory loss and small personality changes. The patient may forget things that happened recently or the names of friends and relatives. Math problems or balancing a checkbook may become difficult activities. Mild Alzheimer deprives people of their organizational and planning skills.

  1. Moderate

Memory loss and confusion are accentuated during the middle stage. Organizing, planning and following directions become more difficult. Additionally, the person may have problems getting dressed and controlling his or her bowel. They may fail to recognize familiar people or know where they are or what time of the day/week/month/year it is. People with moderate Alzheimer’s disease should not be left alone as they may wander. They may also lack judgment, become restless and repeat movements late in the day, and have difficulty sleeping. Common personality changes include making threats, accusing others of stealing, cursing, kicking, hitting, biting, screaming, and grabbing things.

  1. Severe

In the last stage the patient often requires help with their everyday needs and activities such as walking or sitting up. They may not be able to communicate or recognize relatives, and have difficulty swallowing or entirely refuse to eat. Severe Alzheimer ends up in the person’s death.


Learn more about Alzheimer’s disease

·         Talk to a doctor or healthcare provider about the condition.

·         Have your doctor refer you to an Alzheimer’s specialist.

·         Ask your doctor or the specialist about authoritative sources of info.

·         Check out books, CDs, DVDs, or videos from the library.

·         Attend educational programs and workshops.

·         Visit, the National Institute on Aging, or the Alzheimer’s Association.

·         Ask friends and relatives for support and advice.

·         Find support groups with caregivers who are providing care for people who are in the same stage as the person you are caring for. Online support groups are available as well.

As you learn that a loved one has Alzheimer’s disease – and learn about the condition itself – you may consider whether to keep this information to yourself, especially if you’re embarrassed or afraid that others won’t understand, or you simply don’t want to trouble them. Keep in mind though that you may have to devote too much energy to keeping the secret – which may be a moot point anyway because others may already be wondering what’s happening. In fact, friends and relatives often sense that there is something wrong without having to be told. On the other hand, they may be able and willing to help you out. There certainly is no right or wrong time to break the news except when you feel you’re ready, and no right or wrong way to go about it except being fully honest. Some tips you can follow include:

·         Telling your friends and family about Alzheimer’s disease and its effects.

·         Sharing books and information to let them know what you and the person with Alzheimer are going through.

·         Telling them they can learn more – just like you did.

·         Letting them know what they can do to help you, such as assuming certain responsibilities so you can take breaks.

·         Highlighting what the person can still do and how much they can still understand.

·         Provide suggestions on how to talk to the person, such as “Hi John, I’m Mark. We used to work together.”

·         Teaching them not to correct the patient when they make a mistake or forget something.

·         Helping them plan activities with the person, including family reunions, going to religious gatherings, community activities, visiting friends.

 When a person develops Alzheimer’s disease, it affects the entire family, including children. The flow of information to children may be kept on a need-to-know basis, depending on how old they are and their relationship to the person with Alzheimer. For example, if the patient and the child live in the same house, keep this in mind:

·         Answer their questions honestly and straightforwardly.

·         Assure them that it’s normal to feel sad or angry. Help them understand theirs and your own feelings.

·         Comfort them if they think that what’s happening is their fault.

·         Show them how to act around and talk to the person; they will follow your lead.

Young children should not be expected to be caregivers for the person with Alzheimer’s disease. They should have time for their own interests and needs, like having friends, attending school activities, homework. However, children should also spend time with the person doing things that can help them cope with the situation – and help the patient as well – such as simple arts and crafts, playing music, singing, looking through photo albums, or reading aloud. You should also spend quality time with the child so he or she does not feel neglected.

The child may not talk about any negative feelings they are experiencing, but problems at school, with friends, or at home may tip you off that something is bothering him or her. A school counselor or social worker may be able to help you and the child deal with the situation. Teenagers in particular may be embarrassed by the changes their relative is going through, and may not want to be around the person. Talk to them about how they feel but don’t force them to spend time with the Alzheimer patient. Sometimes both children and adults need respite services to get a break from all the Alzheimer’s disease-related turmoil.