Growing old with dignity
In medical terms there are actually five stages of Alzheimer’s but for purposes of caregiving we break them down into early, middle and late stage. This article deals with early stage.
Although a person may not always appear to have dementia, in the early stages of Alzheimer’s he or she may be experiencing fairly moderate deterioration of the ability to process thoughts, absorb new information and will be more forgetful than usual. Even if the person exhibits all of these symptoms one cannot assume that it is Alzheimer’s. Only a thorough evaluation by a specialist physician can make this determination.
The early stage can last for many years before progressing to the next stage.
If your partner is in the early stage, it is entirely possible that you will not need to enrol professional caregivers. What the person with Alzheimer’s needs more than anything else at this stage is patience, support, a calm and familiar environment, and ongoing companionship.
You will increasingly become involved in assisting your loved one to remember appointments, birthdays, names and faces, familiar places etc.
It is vital that at this stage that you begin to plan for the inevitable deterioration of your loved one’s condition, so that you are fully prepared for the resultant challenges. It is advisable that you get your financial arrangements in order and that you consult with support organisations, such as Alzheimer’s South Africa. You should also prepare friends and relatives for the development of the illness.
What you should avoid doing is to allow him or her to withdraw from social activities. Also make sure that you establish routines and limit unnecessary disruptions to your daily living patterns. Regular exercise will also assist in curbing frustration and anxiety.
Finally, acknowledge that these are frightening times as you begin to reconcile the reality of your loved one’s condition. Rather than seeking refuge in denial, seek out emotional support from all available resources.