Two woman look at the coastline on a rocky beach. One woman sits in a chair and the other stands next to her.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia and a leading cause of death globally. In addition to cognitive impairments, Alzheimer’s disease causes behavioral changes that are more noticeable to loved ones than to the patient. By recognizing Alzheimer’s disease behavioral changes at each stage, patients and their loved ones can plan ahead. 

Early-stage Alzheimer’s disease behavioral changes

Alzheimer’s disease starts changing the brain decades before diagnosis. Therefore, symptoms are not as obvious in the early phase, and there are many notable early behavior changes.

People with early-stage Alzheimer’s have mild memory loss and cognitive impairments. Some of these behavioral changes may include

  • Having difficulty finding the right words to express their thoughts. 
  • Having more difficulty learning new names and remembering familiar ones.
  • Losing or misplacing objects around the house or in public (from the remote control to more important things like house keys or credit cards. 
  • Having difficulty remembering plans or tasks like paying bills on time.

These changes are similar to normal aging. The main difference is that Alzheimer’s-related behavior changes appear earlier and worsen more quickly.

How can I support someone with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease?

Most people can live independently during the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. But, they will need extra support to make appointments or pay bills on time. Treating them respectfully and showing patience is important because treating them like they are helpless feels demeaning. If they feel this way, the patient may resist accepting help later.

Middle-stage Alzheimer’s disease behavioral changes

People in the middle stage of Alzheimer’s disease have noticeable symptoms. An individual’s behavior may also change in confusing ways. Some of these behavioral changes may include

  • Forgetting what they’re doing or saying. 
  • Forgetting personal information or recent events.
  • Forming new repetitive habits. Sometimes their actions become unpredictable and uncharacteristic. 
  • Changes in their sleep patterns. This disease disrupts sleep cycles. For example, a person with middle-stage Alzheimer’s may fall asleep during the day and wake up at night.
  • Wandering off without informing others.
  • Not dressing appropriately for the weather.

Unfortunately, many behavioral changes at this stage are dangerous and put the person at risk of harmful exposure. As a result, most people with middle-stage Alzheimer’s require assistance and supervision. Memory care services can take place in different settings, whether provided in the home, in an assisted living facility or nursing home, or in a facility that caters only to patients with memory impairment.

How can I support someone with middle-stage Alzheimer’s disease?

Families and loved ones of people with middle-stage Alzheimer’s can take several actions to help protect their physical well-being. Loved ones can leave notes throughout the person’s home to help them remember vital information. These reminders might include leaving a list of important phone numbers near their telephone or dates on the fridge. They may also consider giving pictures of relatives labeled with names to help them keep track of people they know.

If someone with Alzheimer’s tends to wander off, their loved ones can install chimes on the doors. Caregivers can help the person choose appropriate clothing for the weather. Most people at this stage of Alzheimer’s need professional care, especially if they act erratically. It’s crucial at this stage to give the person deserve respect and kindness, even if their behavior is unpredictable.

Late-stage Alzheimer’s disease behavioral changes

Behavior changes are profound in late-stage Alzheimer’s disease. At this point, most patients lose their independence and need constant care. Some common behaviors include

  • Being unable to clean up after themselves.
  • Being unable to get dressed on their own.
  • Being unable to use the bathroom by themselves. 
  • Needing assistance with eating.
  • Loss of the ability to swallow.
  • Being unable to communicate or unresponsive most of the time.

Although people with late-stage Alzheimer’s sometimes have brief moments of awareness, this is difficult for families.

How can I support someone with late-stage Alzheimer’s disease?

People in the final stages of Alzheimer’s disease require round-the-clock professional care. They need help with all parts of everyday life. Therefore, it is crucial to help them get quality end-of-life care. They also need help with final arrangements. If they did not leave explicit directions, work with their care team and other loved ones.

Throughout the stages of the disease, people need and deserve kindness and respect. Companionship in these final days is essential, even if the person sometimes doesn’t seem fully aware. These times are also challenging for loved ones, so self-care is essential. They can seek out emotional support if possible. With the right help, someone with late-stage Alzheimer’s can live the rest of their days with dignity and comfort.