Caring for Alzheimer's patient changes as disease progresses

Caring for Alzheimer's patient changes as disease progresses
This undated image provided by Merck & Co., shows a cross section of a normal brain (right) and one of a brain damaged by advanced Alzheimer's disease.
Alzheimer's disease, like other forms of dementia, is progressive. Even in the early stages, the forgetfulness can cause safety concerns.

"Leaving the stove on, putting the pot on for tea and forgetting to turn it off; leaving the room and just kinds of out of sight out of mind; all the way to some pretty significant issues with wandering or becoming disoriented, distracted when driving or driving when you shouldn't be driving any longer," said Joanne Maher, with the Alzheimer's Association of Western Washington.

She says how you respond to these warning signs depends on the person, the family situation, and in a lot of cases, the finances.

There are things you can do to modify the home environment that might work for a while.

"You may not want to use the stove any longer. Maybe you go to a microwave. You do have someone come in who helps you with the meal preparation or even something like Meals on Wheels that gets brought in and you microwave them, so you're not using equipment that could be more dangerous. But for a lot of people at some point, moving might be the only option,” Maher said.

Somewhere down the road it will become 24/7 care. Your big decision will be whether that takes place in the home or in a residential setting.

The Alzheimer's Association's Helpline 1-800-272-3900 is a toll-free number that you can call 24-hours a day, 7 days a week to get information about the disease or support groups.