Trends in aging: Alzheimer's and Dementia Part 10: Amber Stage: Characteristics

By Wendy McHaney
Feb. 7, 2014 at midnight
Updated Feb. 6, 2014 at 8:07 p.m.

Today's column continues through the Senior Gems approach to care based on the Allen Cognitive Disability Theory. My previous columns discussed the first three stages - Sapphire, Diamond and Emerald. This next series of columns will explore mid-stage to late dementia, also known as the Amber stage.

As we are getting into the more advanced stages of dementia, and the subject matter is getting more complicated, the Amber stage will be addressed in a series of four columns.

An amber was chosen to represent this stage because it is the least stable and sturdy. In the stop light sequence, yellow means slow down, and it is important to slow down when speaking to and doing activities with an amber. Some basic characteristics of the amber stage are as follows:

Hypersensitivity in several sensory spots: lips/tongue/mouth, palms/fingers, soles of the feet and genitalia

A physical need to have sensation in the these main sensory spots

Can only do one thing at a time

Is either private and quiet or public and noisy

May pinch, scream, and/or hit if he or she does not like what is happening

Visual field is getting smaller

Speech can be difficult to understand


Unable to understand long sentences or directions

At this stage, about 37 percent of dementia patients begin to experience delusions, and 24 percent begin to experience hallucinations. Delusions are defined as a firmly held beliefs in things that are not real.

Individuals with dementia experience delusions that are possible, compared to a delusion that would be impossible to happen. A common delusion for ambers is that someone is stealing from them.

Hallucinations are defined as false perceptions of objects or events that are sensory in nature. Ambers may see, hear, smell, taste or feel something that isn't really there.

Visual hallucinations are most common in dementia with Lewy bodies, with up to 80 percent of patients experiencing them.

While hallucinations can occur in the later stages of Alzheimer's, they often occur early in the course of dementia with Lewy bodies.

My next column will discuss the difficulties ambers face interacting with others and will provide tips on how to best communicate with a loved one in this stage of dementia.

Senior Helpers is presenting free workshops and support groups at Copperfield Village, 501 E. Larkspur St., from 10:15 to 11:15 a.m. every Thursday.

Call 361-894-8901 for more information about these workshops. Previous columns on the stages of dementia, as well as other trends in aging can be found on our website,

Sources: SH Franchising Senior Gems training materials

Wendy McHaney is a certified senior adviser and the owner and director of operations of Senior Helpers. For more information about Senior Helpers, visit



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