Last week we began our discussion on the Spirit of Alzheimer’s learning and how every 65 seconds, someone in America develops the disease. Every three seconds, someone in the world develops the disease. Through understanding and education, we will be better prepared to care for our loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia disorder. “What stage is my mother in? What can we expect next?” Alzheimer’s disease and the other dementias are usually slow and progressive illnesses. The average length of life after a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is eight years, although many people live much longer. While there are different theories and views of staging, many senior care professionals, including David Troxel, co-developer of the Best Friends Approach to Alzheimer’s care, believes that understanding three basic stages can help families prepare for the caregiving journey. During early stage, people with Alzheimer’s retain some insight into their situation, but are getting more and more confused and forgetful. They may begin to lose language skills, have trouble handling money and paying bills, forget once-familiar tasks and have some personality changes. During this stage it was tough for the family to manage issues around driving and money management, but with honest and caring communication the mother finally accepted their help. Middle stage- People in early-stage dementia can retain enough function to fool family and friends about their condition. But the game is up in stage two, marked by significant memory loss and confusion. Dad may forget or not recognize family and friends, repeat himself often and have problems sequencing tasks like putting on clothes in the wrong order. He begins to lose independence. It is no longer safe for him to live alone and manage his own affairs. Socialization and support are important at all stages of the Alzheimer’s journey, but they are a key intervention during middle dementia. Structuring the day, arranging activities and preventing isolation are important goals. Besides offering daily assistance with dressing, bathing, meal preparation and other tasks, trained caregivers know how to plan activities they and their clients can enjoy together and how to have fun with their clients. Late stage dementia often accompanies anticipatory grief. In many ways, Alzheimer’s can be considered a fatal illness. Late in the illness, the person is more prone to falls and infections. The swallowing reflex often declines, making the person vulnerable to aspiration pneumonia. While the person has experienced some incontinence, now he or she may lose full control of bladder and bowels. Caregiving becomes quite profound and focused on physical care and well-being. Although the person may not recognize family or friends, it’s important to continue expressing love and affection. There’s still a person inside, who needs dignity and respect. Of great help during this final period are hospice services, which can provide excellent medical, spiritual and social care. “Supportive companions are important no matter where your family member is in this long journey,” says Troxel. “Building a strong network of caregivers, support groups and friends can help a family prepare for and address needs and challenges at every stage of Alzheimer’s.” To find support groups, contact your local Alzheimer’s Association in Santa Rosa at 707-573-1210. To find in home care support, contact your local Home Instead Senior Care office at 707-586-1516. World Alzheimer’s Day, Sept. 21st of each year, is a day on which Alzheimer’s organizations around the world concentrate their efforts on raising awareness about Alzheimer’s and dementia. Let’s keep the spirit of World Alzheimer’s Day going! These resources can be used and shared throughout the year. Our local Walk to End Alzheimer’s was Oct. 20 in Schoenberg Park. It was another inspiring day building awareness and supporting each other as well as our community- caring for those with the disease. Sadly, it isn’t just those afflicted with the disease this diagnosis affects. It’s a diagnosis the entire family will reel from. Crash course to caring for a loved one with dementia You’ve likely had a few “I don’t know how to deal with this!” moments over the course of your caregiving journey so far. Improve your caregiving know-how in 60 minutes by learning about practical tips, best practices and resources from the experts. You can go to www.helpforalzheimersfamilies.com/AlzLearnDay to listen to the free webinar. The expert panel will lead these educational discussions with practical tips you can apply to your situation and improve the care of your loved one that same day. Educate It only a takes few minutes to better educate yourself or share what you’ve learned about Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia disorders. Here are some ideas to spark your imagination about how you can learn, educate and share today. Practical ways you can improve care for dementia clients Learn from two experts in the field who can offer evidence-based recommendations and guidance regarding a variety of topics including the diagnosis process, care and treatment options, and communication with family caregivers. Again, visit www.helpforalzheimersfamilies.com/AlzLearnDay to view these free educational 5min.- 30 min.- or 60 min. webinar options. How In-Home Care helps people with dementia Often, when it comes to a dementia diagnosis, many assume that the person living with dementia needs to move from their home. However, staying at home can provide a safe, familiar environment where a person can thrive and maintain their independence. Sometimes home isn’t the best option. Today there are many memory care aging villages who specialize in Alzheimer’s and dementia care. If you are looking for help in this arena, phone my office at 586-1516 and we can make an introduction for you to a highly skilled specialist in memory care to help with these multi layered decisions. Wherever you are in the caregiving journey, you’ll find practical advice from the Alzheimer’s Association, from David Troxel’s book, “The Best Friends Approach to Alzheimer’s care” and from Home Instead Senior Care to ensure your loved one with Alzheimer’s or other dementias will receives excellent care. Julie Ann Soukoulis is the owner of Home Instead Senior care office in Rohnert Park, mother of two and passionate about healthy living at all ages. Having cared for her own two parents, she understands your struggles and aims, through her website, www.homeinstead.com/sonoma to educate and encourage seniors & caregivers. Have a caregiving or aging concern? She’s love to hear from you at 586-1516 anytime.