Alzheimer’s symptoms and caregiving stages

Our loved ones who are Alzheimer's victims deserve our love and affection

Understanding the symptoms and how they progress can help deacons comfort and advise congregation members whose loved ones are exhibiting these behaviors…

The Alzheimer’s Association is a helpful resource for anyone who is dealing with Alzheimer’s disease, either themselves or because a loved one has been diagnosed.

It offers several pages of information regarding the different symptoms to be expected. They list:

  • Aggression and anger
  • Anxiety and agitation
  • Depression
  • Hallucinations
  • Memory loss and confusion
  • Repetition
  • Sleep issues and sundowning
  • Suspicions and delusions
  • Wandering

Each subject has a section dedicated to it that explains what the symptoms are, what may cause them, and how a caregiver can respond to them.

The site lists common triggers:

Triggering situations

Events or changes in a person’s surroundings often play a role in triggering behavioral symptoms.

Change can be stressful for anyone and can be especially difficult for a person with Alzheimer’s disease. It can increase the fear and fatigue of trying to make sense out of an increasingly confusing world.

Situations affecting behavior may include:

Moving to a new residence or nursing home
Changes in a familiar environment or caregiver arrangements
Misperceived threats
Admission to a hospital
Being asked to bathe or change clothes
Identifying what has triggered a behavior can often help in selecting the best approach to deal with it.


The symptoms vary depending in which caregiving stage the Alzheimer’s victim lies. The Alzheimer’s Association describes three different caregiving stages:

  1. Accepting the diagnosis
  2. Early-stage caregiving
  3. Middle-stage caregiving
  4. Late-stage caregiving

Accepting the diagnosis can cause strong emotions in both the Alzheimer’s victim and their loved ones. But this can be healthy:

Learning that someone you care about has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other related dementia can be life changing. Coming to terms with the diagnosis requires time. Immediate reactions of denial and fear are normal and may help you and the person diagnosed process the grief you are feeling.

It is helpful to recall the wise words of King Solomon: “For everything there is an appointed time, and a season for every purpose under heaven…There is a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:1,4).

During early-stage caregiving, things appear normal. This period should be used for planning. The Association says:

In the early stage of Alzheimer’s, most people function independently. He or she may still drive, take part in social activities, volunteer and even work. Your role as care partner is an important one: to provide support and companionship, and help plan for the future.

“Early stage” refers to people, irrespective of age, who are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or a related disorder, and are in the beginning stage of the disease. The early stage of Alzheimer’s can last for years. A diagnosis of early stage Alzheimer’s disease doesn’t just affect those with the disease; it affects everyone who loves and cares about them. Learn more about the stages of Alzheimer’s.

During middle-stage caregiving, the debilitating symptoms begin appearing. Words get jumbled. The Alzheimer’s victim struggles to dress himself. Normal, everyday tasks start becoming a challenge. The caregiver will need to be patient and flexible and become more involved in the daily routine of their loved one. They should also reach out to support groups:

The middle stages of Alzheimer’s are typically the longest and can last for many years. As dementia progresses, the person with Alzheimer’s will require a greater level of care. During this time, it’s important to get the support you need as a caregiver.

Late-stage caregiving is heart-breaking. At this point, our loved ones truly fade away as they lose their ability to talk, and communication of even pain becomes difficult. This is when many people consider transferring their loved one to a facility where professional, full-time caregivers can attend to them.

The late stage of Alzheimer’s disease may last from several weeks to several years. As the disease progresses, intensive, around-the-clock care is usually required.

It is best if this stage is discussed and planned for during early-stage caregiving because it is likely to be costly. Insurance options will need to be reviewed and understood. It may be that insurance won’t cover it, and neither the Alzheimer’s victim nor their loved ones can afford a facility.


Deacons should be aware of any member living with loved ones who are suffering from Alzheimer’s. The church should look for ways to provide support.

This is especially important if the Alzheimer’s victim can’t afford full-time facility care. Their responsible loved one, and your member, will need the church’s support. The church ought to be happy to provide this support. But the needs could be complex.

The local body is a community, and supporting its members in times like this are wonderful ways in which it can come together and express its love for one another. If possible, the deacons should enlist lay members of its congregation in advance who would be willing to help. Not everyone will be qualified or called. It may take a while to identify these members. It will be good if the church is prepared should the need arise. This preparation will reduce the stress placed upon the diaconate and will also aid them in providing rapid support and comfort when the news is received. What a tremendous way to fulfill the duty of love! (1 John 4:7-11)

Remember the Apostle’s words:

“Now our presentable members have no need to be treated with dignity, for they already have dignity. But God has joined all the members together, and he gave more honor to those that lacked it. He did this so there may be no division within the body, but that the members should care for one another with the same affection. So when one member suffers, all the members suffer together; or when one member is honored, all the members rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it” (1 Corinthians 12:24-27).

And also: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2, NIV).