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Understanding the stages of Alzheimer’s disease and how to successfully communicate

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Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia among older adults.

Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and, eventually, the ability to carry out simple tasks. For most people with the disease, symptoms first appear in their mid-60s.

Memory problems are typically one of the first signs of Alzheimer’s, as well as a decline in certain aspects of thinking, such as finding the right words, impaired reasoning and vision issues.

According to the National Institute of Health, Alzheimer’s disease is currently ranked as the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.

Certain factors, such as age, genetics or medical history can increase your risk.

Alzheimer’s is divided into three stages: mild, moderate and severe. These stages can help a loved one understand the progression of the disease.

Alzheimer’s disease is often diagnosed in the mild/early stage. In this stage, it is clear the person is having trouble with memory, concentration or planning.

In the moderate/middle stage, people grow more confused and forgetful and begin to need assistance with daily activities.

Mental function continues to decline in the severe/late stage of the disease. There is a greater impact on conversation, control of movement and daily personal care.

You can successfully communicate with someone with Alzheimer’s disease. In the early stage, speak directly to the person, give them time to respond and don't interrupt or finish sentences unless he or she asks for help finding a word or finishing a sentence.

The Alzheimer’s Association notes that the middle stage has the greatest difficult communicating and will require more direct care. Allow time for response so the person can think about what he or she wants to say. Be patient and supportive, maintain eye contact and avoid arguing.

In the late stage, encourage nonverbal communication, asking the person to point or gesture and use touch, sights, sounds smells and tastes as a form of communication.

Hearthstone Communities: 920 North Seminary Avenue, Woodstock, IL 60098: 815.338.2110: www.hearthstonewoodstock.org

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