Care Requirements by Stage
As we mentioned before, at the first diagnosis of dementia, the patient often times will not require any care assistance and will be able to live independently. However, as their dementia progresses, care will eventually be needed. In fact, by the time a patient reaches middle-stage to late-stage dementia, they will no longer be able to care for themselves at all.
While there are many American families who take care of their elderly loved ones who’ve been diagnosed with dementia, many people also hire a trained caregiver to provide care, or supplement the care they are already providing. It’s important to realize that once dementia symptoms worsen, it becomes nearly impossible to care for the person suffering from it all by yourself. This is particularly true if you are not a trained caregiver who specializes in caring for seniors with memory issues.
That said, there are many options out there for care assistance, such as adult day care, in-home care, and nursing home care. Financial assistance for these services can be obtained through Medicaid’s benefits, Veterans’ programs, state non-medical programs, tax credits and deductions for Alzheimer’s / dementia, and more.
Early Stage Dementia
As we mentioned above, patients in the early stage of dementia require no additional assistance, and should be able to function and take care of themselves properly and independently. They may need the occasional reminder of when doctors appointments are, or when to take a certain medication. But overall, early stage mild dementia doesn’t carry much in regards to negative symptoms. Keep in mind, patients in this stage should be made to live as independently as possible. It’s a good idea for family members and/or caregivers to discuss the future and expected plans with a patient in this stage, as they are still thinking clearly and able to make sound decisions. Hold important conversations, such as long-term care plans and both financial and legal matters while the patient is in this stage, before they progress to the middle stages of dementia, or start to exhibit dementia-like symptoms.
Middle Stage Dementia
During the middle stage of dementia, patients exhibit increased cognitive problems and are no longer able to function as independently as they were in the early stages. It’s likely they’ll need assistance with Activities of Daily Living (ADLs), which include grooming, bathing, dressing and cooking, etc. When middle stage dementia is just starting to manifest itself, patients may only need a reminder or prompting to perform these types of tasks. That said, there will come a point as their dementia symptoms progress, where a more hands-on approach will be necessary. Caregivers should do their best to establish a solid routine for dementia patients in the middle stage of memory loss, and will need to exercise more patience during this stage. Due to the fact that individuals in this stage of dementia experience long-term memory loss, they will have an increasingly difficult time speaking, it’s imperative that their caregivers talk clearly and slowly, even using non-verbal communication when necessary. Middle stage dementia patients will no longer have proper cognitive function, therefore they won’t be able to drive safely, so readily-available transportation will be required. Unfortunately, leaving a patient alone during this stage of dementia is no longer safe, which means that around-the-clock supervision becomes mandatory.
Late Stage Dementia
Once a person reaches the late stage of dementia, the amount of care they require significantly increases. At this level of memory loss, also known as severe dementia, dementia patients need 24/7 supervision and assistance in completing nearly all, if not all, daily tasks. These include getting in and out of bed, maneuvering from the bed to a chair, or help moving positions within their bed to avoid developing bedsores if they’ve become bedridden. All foods they consume must be cut into very small pieces and should be soft, such as yogurt or applesauce, as swallowing will be a major issue for late stage dementia patients. It isn’t uncommon for individuals in this stage to consume a diet consisting entirely of pureed foods. As the dementia progresses, the individual will reach a point where they will be 100% dependent on their caregivers and will no longer be able to perform any daily living activities on their own. Most families are not properly trained and do not possess the necessary skills required to offer care to a patient in the last stage of dementia. There are many dementia care options available to people struggling with memory loss, these including: hiring a part time or full time caregiver, or moving the patient into a nursing home or memory care facility.