Living with Alzheimer’s: A Sudden Worsening of Symptoms

The adult child of a senior living with Alzheimer’s places their hand on the senior’s shoulder lovingly.

Learn what to do if a senior living with Alzheimer’s experiences a sudden worsening of symptoms.


It would be great if there was a manual with details on what to expect from each stage for a senior living with Alzheimer’s. While there are some general commonalities during the progression of dementia, each person’s experience is different. This makes it difficult to know what to anticipate on any given day.

Despite the unpredictability of Alzheimer’s disease, there are particular situations that are beyond the normal array of expectations to watch for. One of the most alarming of these is a sudden worsening of symptoms. This may occur for a number of reasons:

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

What Are the Typical Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s is a progressive and incurable disease. For these reasons, a decline in condition is to be expected. An abrupt shift in the person’s condition, however, is atypical. Generally speaking, the condition progresses through the following stages:

  • Early: The initial 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 individual 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 the environment, as the body begins to shut down.

If You Notice a Worsening of Symptoms in a Senior Living with Alzheimer’s…

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

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

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

These types of details will be crucial in helping to piece together what may have caused a sudden change in condition and how to remedy it.

Golden Harmony’s caregivers are highly skilled and trained in providing care for those diagnosed with dementia and detecting any changes in condition. Contact us online at 919-426-7522 and let us walk beside you on your dementia care journey in Raleigh, Cary, Wake Forest, and the surrounding areas.