Alzheimer's: Advice and Help for Relatives

If you have a relative suffering from Alzheimer's, here are some tips for caring for them and also for understanding the disease itself.
Alzheimer's: Advice and Help for Relatives
Sergio De Dios González

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist Sergio De Dios González.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

In this article, we want to talk about Alzheimer’s disease, focusing on its phases and how to identify some of the symptoms that indicate a person may be suffering from this disorder. In addition, we offer some guidelines to help you deal with the situation in the best possible way.

The stages of Alzheimer’s

According to the Alzheimer Foundation of Spain, an Alzheimer’s patient has approximately an average of between ten and 12 years of life after being diagnosed.

Alzheimer’s disease has a slow but progressive evolution, in which, gradually, the person’s autonomy decreases until they become completely dependent.

Once the disease begins, various difficulties and doubts may arise. Furthermore, the sufferer’s entire environment will have to be reorganized, to avoid any type of damage and to facilitate the handling of complicated situations.

A man in one of the stages of Alzheimer's.

There are basically three stages in the evolution of Alzheimer’s disease

  • Early (mild) stage. This phase is characterized by the patient forgetting everyday things such as appointments, family names, paying bills, etc. They tend to experience mood swings and can get angry when they realize their mistakes. They also tend to withdraw into themselves and become less sociable. In addition, they start to experience communication problems. For example, they can’t find the right words or are unable to follow a conversation well. In general, in this phase, the patient is still well, continues to reason adequately, and can go about their daily life, including working, without problems.
  • Middle (moderate) stage. In this phase, the person suffers a strong deterioration in memory. They forget recent events and, although they remember the past, sometimes they don’t manage to place events in the right order. They often ask about dead relatives and they experience hallucinations and certain fears. They’re also usually aggressive. They speak increasingly less, have a reduced vocabulary, and tend to repeat the same phrases. In addition, they have difficulty coordinating their movements such as fastening buttons and holding cutlery. They often fall and bump into things. In fact, their daily life becomes more and more difficult.
  • Late (severe) stage. In this phase, the patient is totally dependent on the people who care for them. They’ve completely lost their memory and can’t differentiate between the past and the present. They don’t recognize their children, spouse, or the rest of their family. Their moods are extremely unpredictable. They no longer speak, they just babble unintelligibly. Furthermore, they’re unable to do anything. In fact, most of their time is spent in bed.

Early diagnosis

Going to the doctor as soon as possible is essential. In this way, the appropriate guidelines can be followed regarding the sufferer’s loss of autonomy. Appropriate treatment can also be selected. Furthermore, the relatives should be given as much information as possible, both on the prognosis and the evolution of the illness, and the habits or recommendations they should follow.

A woman with dementia staring at the floor.

Advice for dealing with an Alzheimer’s sufferer

  • Stick to the same routine with them.
  • Don’t scold them.
  • Don’t take anything they say or do the wrong way. Their mistakes are the product of their illness.
  • Never argue with them. Try to stay calm.
  • Praise them for their achievements. Encourage and teach them but never embarrass them. Help them with their self-esteem. For example, leave them a small amount of money for them to manage, and involve them in family meetings and conversations, etc.
  • Let them adopt their own rhythm.
  • Show them affection.

Look after yourself

It’s extremely important that you’re aware that, if you’re the relative in charge of a person with Alzheimer’s, you must take care of yourself.

Therefore, lean on the people around you. Talk about how you feel and how their illness is affecting you and allow yourself to have some free time. These measures are essential. Remember that, if you have to be their support, you must also be healthy.

There’s no clear answer to date as to whether Alzheimer’s can be prevented or not. However, physical exercise and diet, maintaining social ties and intellectual mental activity can, in some cases, help delay the onset and progresion of the disease.

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The contents of Exploring Your Mind are for informational and educational purposes only. They don't replace the diagnosis, advice, or treatment of a professional. In the case of any doubt, it's best to consult a trusted specialist.