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What is it Like to Care for Someone with Alzheimer’s Disease?

Caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s disease can be challenging. Affinity Health, a leading provider of high-quality healthcare, shares how to make difficult days a little better.


This World Alzheimer’s Month, Affinity Health talks to a family about their journey with Alzheimer’s.

“My Mom Was Diagnosed With Alzheimer’s At Age 82.”

Joan Williams was in her early ’80s when her son started noticing changes in her personality. At first, the family thought the memory loss was just a normal part of the ageing process. But as months passed, the classic symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease became clearer.


“My mom started forgetting things like important dates and events. She always asked the same questions over and over again. She seemed very confused.


We had suspicions when she started struggling with her favourite hobbies,” says Joan’s son.


“We took her to a doctor, who diagnosed her with Stage 3 Alzheimer’s. That is the most advanced of the three stages of the disease. While we knew fully what Alzheimer’s was, nothing could prepare us for the journey ahead.”

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is a brain ailment that gradually impairs:

  • Memory
  • Cognitive abilities
  • The ability to do even the most basic tasks


Most Alzheimer’s patients show symptoms of dementia that worsen over time.


Plaques and tangles in the brain are characteristics of Alzheimer’s disease. A further characteristic is the disconnection of neurons in the brain. Neurons transport messages between various brain regions. They also travel from the brain to the muscles and organs.


Murray Hewlett, Affinity Health CEO says that memory issues may indicate Alzheimer’s. “Initial Alzheimer’s symptoms differ from person to person.”


Some early signs include a decline in the following:

  • Non-memory components of cognition
  • Word-finding
  • Vision/spatial difficulties
  • Impaired thinking or judgement


As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, memory loss and other cognitive impairments increase. Problems include:

  • Wandering and getting lost
  • Difficulty handling money and paying bills
  • Repeating inquiries
  • Requiring more time to do typical daily tasks
  • Personality and behavioural changes

Often, people are diagnosed at this stage. Alzheimer’s disease is categorised into three stages:

Mild (Stage 1)

Damage occurs in regions of the brain regulating:

  • Language
  • Logic
  • Cognition
  • Senses
  • Perception
  • Memory loss
  • Confusion
  • Failed recognition

Moderate (Stage 2)

Patients may be unable to do the following simple things:

  • Get dressed
  • Ensure hygiene
  • Focus
  • See clearly
  • Calm down
  • Pay attention

Severe (Stage 3)

Plaques and tangles spread throughout the brain, and diminish the following:

  • Cognition
  • Motion
  • Conversation
  • Independence

How to Support a Loved One With Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s disease care can incur severe physical, emotional, and financial expenditures. Placing patients in a care facility can be challenging. You would need to consider:

  • Daily care responsibilities
  • Changes in family roles and decisions


Now age 92, Joan is in frail care at a facility home. Her symptoms are managed with anti-anxiety medication, coupled with occupational therapy.


“Since my mom’s diagnosis, our family has had to make many changes. I had to become her legal guardian and decision maker. I needed to accept that her condition would never improve but would only worsen as time passed.


Accepting that requires compassion, patience, and understanding. All family members had to learn new communication skills as far as not to ask my mom too many questions.


We all had to accept that her memory loss profoundly affects her daily interactions. Watching her change as the disease progresses has been very emotional for us.”


Joan’s son continues to say that his advice to others is to seek professional help as soon as symptoms start.


“Getting professional health care and finding experts in Alzheimer’s disease is crucial. Get to know the doctors involved in treating your loved one. Accept the reality of the disease. And, lastly, remember to also take care of yourself.”

About Affinity Health

Affinity Health is the leading provider of affordable medical insurance in South Africa. Members enjoy access to a network of healthcare providers. We have designed healthcare products to protect you and your family when it matters the most. We strive to give our clients peace of mind and the highest standard of service. For more information, follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

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