Which Alzheimer's symptoms get worse over time?

3 answers | Last updated: Nov 02, 2016
September asked...

About 4 years ago my mother-in-law got lost coming home from my sister-in-laws house (less than 5 minutes away from her home). We then took away her keys. She had lived alone. Then she started to forget taking her meds. She then forgot to eat. She broke her leg, had surgery, and her memory became awful. My mother-in-law now lives with us. She has been living with us for the past 19 months. She can remember what is said to her, and then about 2 minutes later she'll ask the same questions again. She forgets where she is (our home) but remembers where the bathroom is. At times she forgets where she sits at the kitchen table every afternoon/night. She remembers her chair in the living room "most" times. She forgets she has a bedroom until she gets in it and then she says "oh" this is my nice bedroom. She does not know any other rooms in the house. If we put her in another room she would not know how to leave it. She occasionally recalls that she goes to my sister-in-laws on week-ends. When she is at my sister-in-laws she forgets that she lives with us. When she comes back from my sister-in-law on Mondays she is very, very confused. She is aware she is "extra" confused and gets sad and says "how did I get like this"?

We have created a memory board for her that gives her answers to all the questions she repeat the most, like "why am I here", "do I have any clothing", etc? She remembers she is 83 years old "most of the time". She remembers the name of the company she worked at but nothing about her job, just that she "thinks it was important." We put a double disposable underwear on her at night, and she wets through them once in a while. She soils also once in a while. She look great, and the doctors all say she is doing well health wise. She is on blood thinners and two forms of medication for her memory. She also takes multi vitimins and blood pressure medication.

She does not remember anyone other than my husband and his sister. She sometimes forgets who I am but says "I love to hear your voice when you come in the room". She has once or twice thought my husband was her brother. She does not remember anything about her husband (died) or anyone else in her family, or anything she has done in life (up to 2 min. ago). She is not mean. She is happy most times, excepts when she comes back from my sister-in-law she seems more confused and says, maybe God should just take me. We have several dogs which she just loves (five small dogs that sit on her lap,and next to her on her chair. She does know how many there are, nor any of their names. She has had swallowing problems off and on even when she did not have memory issues, so we make sure her food is soft (not mashed). If you lay out her clothing she can put them on, but you have to be there or she'll forget an item, or gets a bit confused.

She was was able to remember things last year before we had to repeat the answer 5 minutes later (it's down to 2 minutes now). It isn't that she does remembers any less, only that the time in between the time you tell her, and the time she asks again is shorter.

My husband is the primary caregiver. I meet her needs after I come home from work. I share talks, and TV watching in the evenings with her, answering all her questions along the way, and then I put her to bed.

What stage do you think she is in?

What signs manifest themselves as she gets worse?

Do you know the "average" cost of a health aide (hourly)to provide services in the home in NY are?

Appreciate your time. Thank you

Expert Answers

A social worker and geriatric consultant who specializes in dementia care, Joyce Simard is based in Land O' Lakes, Florida, and in Prague. She is a well-known speaker and has written two books, one focusing on end-of-life care and the other, entitled The Magic Tape Recorder, explaining aging, memory loss, and how children can be helpers to their elders.

Your mother-in-law is probably approaching the advanced stage of Alzheimer's disease. Her symptoms will become more debilitating as the disease progresses. Her difficulty swallowing may be the first acute symptom you will face. Make sure everyone who cares for her learns what to do if she chokes. I hope you have also thought about what you will do if she stops eating or can no longer swallow. Tube feeding for people with advanced dementia has shown to be more of a burden than a benefit to the patient. Discuss this matter now with her physician and her family so you will be prepared if this becomes a critical issue. You can also expect that eventually she will become incontinent of bowel and bladder. Expect her ability to walk to become seriously impaired and she may need some type of assistive device, perhaps a walker, wheelchair when she is out of bed. At some point hospice can become involved so you might call them to help you understand when this wonderful service will be available to you.

When you look for engaging someone to help her, ask the agency what type of dementia training they have for their staff.

She will no doubt continue to love being with the dogs and enjoy your companionship. And, usually ice cream works! You just want to keep her happy and pain free at this stage of her disease.

Community Answers

Eldercare advisor answered...

September - I credit you and your husband for your selfless time, love and patience. In today's world, your care is inspirational. Joyce had some wonderful information about what to expect and knowledge is key when dealing with Alzheimer's. There are varying costs for home health aides depending on the level of care required. The hourly rates range from $18 - $30 hour. Make sure to look at a few agencies and as Joyce said, please inquire as to their experience with Dementia patients.

Cool answered...

I think Joyce is a wonderfull person, I have a husban with the decease he also is happy allmost allways wich makes it easyer on me I am shure down the road I will need help, but for now we are ok as long as I remember to make shure he gets his medication, (wich I have forgotten several times)that right now is hard for me Glad to have some Idea what to expect. keep up the good work Joyce. What a wonderfull world this would be with more Joyce in the world Paula