Alzheimer’s disease, a form of dementia, is one of the most common conditions in the world. If you are someone caring for one of the 50 million people living with dementia and more than 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease, it is vital to understand the disease and how to provide support.
What are the signs of Alzheimer’s disease?
Dementia is a broad condition that involves the overall decline of mental abilities, especially memory. Dementia also leads to unusual behavior and trouble with reasoning and communication. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia.
– Memory loss, forgetting dates or payments
– Difficulty in planning or completing tasks, even day-to-day ones
– Determining time, places, or names
– Trouble with visuals or conversations
– Experiencing mood swings like anger, frustration, anxiety, etc.
– Misplacing or losing items
– Difficulty in judgments or making decisions
How is Alzheimer’s disease diagnosed?
If your loved one is experiencing any of the symptoms above, you should contact your healthcare provider. Many of these signs may be conditions of aging like memory loss, vision loss, or experiencing mood changes. However, your healthcare provider may refer you to a doctor who specializes in Alzheimer’s for a full diagnosis.
The symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease will not necessarily show up together. Your healthcare provider will perform a neurological exam and imaging of your brain for a complete diagnosis.
Unfortunately, there is currently no known cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but there are medications that can help relieve some of the symptoms like memory loss or trouble sleeping.
Caregiving for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease
According to the CDC, most people with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias are cared for by family members or friends. Eighty percent of this care is being received at home. The level of care needed for an Alzheimer’s patient can be very demanding and may require a considerable amount of time and patience. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, in 2018, more than 16 million caregivers of people living with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias provided an estimated 18.5 billion hours of unpaid care.
Early stage caregiving may bring on feelings of anxiety and fear of the unknown, but this presents an excellent time to make decisions about the future with your loved one before the disease progresses. Legal, financial, and long-term care are all matters to discuss. Your family might also want to participate in clinical trials or take advantage of available treatment. Moreover, your entire support circle might benefit from support services.
During the middle stages of caregiving for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, functioning independently becomes more difficult and you may need to assume a more significant role as a caregiver. A few programs that can assist:
Sibley Hospital’s Care Partner Group – This support group is for persons who are caring for someone who has a chronic illness such as Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, as well as cancer, Parkinson’s disease, or a mental health issue. You are also welcome if your loved one is long distance or in a care community. More information can be found here.
Holy Cross Hospital Caregiving Support – Holy Cross hospital has a variety of support groups including a telephone-based program if you are unable to attend a group in person. More information can be found here.
During the later stages of Alzheimer’s disease, your loved one might require more attention as their ability to care for themselves become harder. Walking, eating, and talking may be difficult as the disease progresses, and caring for them may require full-time attention. The primary focus for a caregiver is preserving the quality of life and dignity.
How can we all help out in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease?
There are many ways you can shed light on Alzheimer’s disease and help the cause by raising funds for research, care, support, and advocacy. Consider participating in The Longest Day, an event held by the Alzheimer’s Association to raise funds for this cause. The Longest Day is the summer solstice, June 21, 2019. It is the day of the year with the most sunlight. You can set up your fundraiser participating in a variety of activities such as sports, arts, hobbies, games, and invite others to join, raise funds, and fight against Alzheimer’s disease.
Creating a caregiving team
Caring for a person with Alzheimer’s or dementia often requires a team of people. SmithLife Homecare offers high-quality and compassionate care services in the comfort of your home. Our services vary to include whatever you need, whether it’s personal care, companion care, laundry services, meal preparation, shopping, and household chores or keeping up with doctor’s appointments. Choose the plan that’s right for you—hourly, daily or a la carte. Our caregivers are available when and where you need them, whether in a health care facility or in your home.