Caring for Your Loved One: The Three Stages of Decline

Family

Caring for Your Loved One: The Three Stages of Decline

If you suspect a loved one is experiencing cognitive decline, it’s critical to discuss financial, legal and caregiving plans immediately.

December 4, 2016

Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that includes three basic stages: mild, moderate, and severe.

Denial is one serious challenge families often face with Alzheimer’s. Due to the progressive nature of the disease, people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia have a limited window in which they will be able to articulate their wishes for future care, living arrangements, finances, and legal matters. For this reason, it’s important for families to discuss their concerns and work through this denial phase in the mild stage of cognitive decline.

1. Mild Decline

Characteristics: In mild decline, people with dementia typically have problems managing their bank statements and making bill payments. They may also have trouble remembering names or words and may often misplace things. They may also wander off or get lost. Family and close friends are most likely to recognize a problem. If you suspect a loved one has dementia and the individual has not seen a doctor, you should encourage that person do so as soon as possible. Getting help sooner allows people to receive treatments and participate in drug trials that could help them maintain their independence longer.

During mild decline, you should:

  • Start the conversation - Talk with your loved one about financial, legal, and caregiving plans. The earlier planning begins, the more involved your loved one will be in the process.
  • Engage with others - Encourage your loved one to talk with family about the dementia and the person’s wishes for care.
  • Work with professionals - Ask your loved one to take you to appointments with doctors and meetings with financial advisors.
  • Obtain legal authority - If your loved one decides to give you legal authority through a power of attorney, the documentation should clearly state which powers are being given and whether the power of attorney remains in effect during incapacity.

2. Moderate Decline

Characteristics: Financial skills deteriorate further during this period. People with dementia may get easily frustrated and be more socially withdrawn. Wandering can also occur in this stage. A caregiver may be needed to shop, cook, and help choose proper clothing. People with dementia may also get frustrated when those around them don’t remember things the same way. In these instances, it’s important to understand that people with dementia have their own sense of reality. Caregivers, friends, and other loved ones should not correct every mistaken memory.

During moderate decline, you should:

  • Work closely with a trusted financial advisor - Developing this relationship can help you alleviate some of the burden of managing your loved one’s finances.
  • Focus on your well-being - If you need advice or support while caring for your loved one, consider talking with the highly trained staff on the Alzheimer’s Association® 24/7 Helpline. Experts are available day or night by calling 800-272-3900.

3. Severe Decline

Characteristics: Memory worsens during severe decline, and people with dementia will have a hard time remembering recent events, including conversations and decisions. Significant mood swings and personality changes may be prevalent, and the individual may need a caregiver to help with eating and using the toilet. In this advanced stage, the person with dementia may be bed-bound and unable to sit without support. It may also appear as though the individual cannot understand words or speech.

During severe decline, you should:

  • Help your loved one live in a comfortable and respectful manner - Financial planning should be complete before this stage.
  • Seek support from other late-stage caregivers - The Alzheimer’s Association offers information about Caregiver Support Groups on its website. You may search by ZIP code to find support groups and education services in your area. You may also get support online by joining ALZConnected.

Being a caregiver can be overwhelming, and the stress associated with this critical role can make it difficult to take action. Transamerica's Caregiver's Guide to Financial Planning in the Shadow of Dementia, written in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) AgeLab, was created to help you feel confident when making decisions for, or with, a loved one living with dementia. Work with your financial advisor before taking final action.

 

This content was created and distributed by Transamerica Capital, Inc.

Raymond James is not affiliated with Transamerica or MIT AgeLab.



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