What Does a Sudden Worsening of Alzheimer’s Symptoms Mean?

Senior Man Being Consoled By Adult Daughter
A sudden worsening of Alzheimer’s symptoms may be cause for concern.

Wouldn’t it be helpful if there was an Alzheimer’s care manual, with step-by-step information on what to anticipate at each stage of the disease? While there are a few general commonalities during the progression of dementia, each person’s experience is different. This makes it difficult to know what to expect on any given day.

Even with the unpredictability of Alzheimer’s disease, there are particular situations that are beyond the normal range of expectations to watch for. Perhaps one of the most concerning is a sudden worsening of Alzheimer’s symptoms. This can occur for a number of reasons:

  • Delirium, triggered by an infection, hospital stay or surgery, medication side effects, insufficient sleep, dehydration, or even constipation
  • Stroke or a brain injury, such as from a fall
  • Disruption to normal routine from a change in caregivers, move, hospitalization, etc.
  • An underlying illness such as cancer or prion disease
  • Sundowning

What Are the Typical Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is progressive, and as of now, incurable. Therefore, a decline in condition is to be expected. A sudden shift in the person’s condition, however, is atypical. Generally speaking, the disease progresses through the following stages:

  • Early: The first detectable signs of Alzheimer’s are typically very mild, including short-term memory lapses, forgetting a word, or getting lost.
  • Middle: In the middle stage of the disease, cognitive challenges progress to the point that the person struggles with independently performing activities of daily living.
  • Late: the last stage of Alzheimer’s, which can take years to reach, involves a lack of response and recognition of both people and environment, as the body begins to shut down.

If You Observe Sudden Worsening of Dementia…

Seek medical help immediately if a rapid decline is noted so that the cause can be pinpointed and addressed.

A dementia care journal is often a very helpful tool, before, during, and after worsening symptoms. Daily journaling can help you keep track of:

  • Medications taken and any side effects detected
  • Any challenging behaviors noted, with details on time of day and potential triggers or contributing circumstances
  • The person’s overall demeanor on any given day
  • Sleeping and eating habits
  • What works and what doesn’t work in helping the individual manage challenges

These kinds of details will be crucial in helping to patch together what might have caused a rapid change in condition and exactly how to remedy it.

Serenity Home Care’s caregivers in Sooke, Langford, Victoria, and the surrounding areas are specially skilled and trained in providing care for those with dementia and detecting any changes in condition. Email us or call 250.590.8098 and let us walk beside you in your dementia care journey.