Alzheimer's and Dementia: What You Need to Know

Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia that causes memory loss, trouble thinking and behavioral problems. Eventually, a person diagnosed with Alzheimer’s will no longer to be able to care for themselves, as they may forget to eat, use the bathroom or wander off and get lost.

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It’s an incredibly difficult situation for a family or person to have to endure. So far, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, but there is a lot of research going on to find treatments and make diagnosis easier. Hopefully one day, there will be the ability to cure it completely, but until then, people will have to make do.

Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease

 The very early warning signs of Alzheimer’s can be subtle. Forgetting names or appointments can happen to anyone, but for people with Alzheimer’s, they often do not remember them later either. As the disease progresses, a person may forget how to do certain tasks such as cooking, cleaning up and self-care. In later stages, they may become fearful, paranoid, belligerent and eventually forget friends and loved ones. Trouble remembering words, problems doing simple math and distorted perceptions of time can escalate frustration and often cause depression or angry outbursts. The cause of Alzheimer’s has been researched thoroughly, but so far nothing has been definitive. Genetics, smoking, lack of exercise or even air pollution have all been speculated as factors. There is currently no cure for the disease, and most treatment focuses on relieving symptoms and slowing the progress of brain deterioration.

Treatment of Alzheimer’s

There are many approaches to the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Most important is to make sure that sufferers feel safe. They should always feel that their environment is one of security. A solid sense of routine, reducing clutter in the home, keeping things like keys and wallet in a designated place out where they can be seen are all ways to reduce reliance on remembering things. People with Alzheimer’s may forget or lose interest in eating or drinking fluids and this can lead to a foul mood as it would for anyone. Making sure that they are getting enough to eat and drink is important to a person's quality of life. Daily walks or light exercise are also good for those with dementia, as they make it easier to sleep at night. If they go out alone, be sure they have a cell phone so you can find them if they become lost. There are some medications that have been shown to slow the deterioration of the brain such as cholinesterase inhibitors, which prevent the breakdown of certain chemicals in the brain related to memory. Other treatments may include antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs for behavior issues.

Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care Facilities

People diagnosed with Alzheimer’s live for an average of 8 years but can live up to 20 years, so around the clock care is usually necessary at some point. This can be very taxing on family and caregivers. When approaching treatment or a home for a loved one with dementia, it is important to find a place that specializes in memory care and its related issues. In the early stages of the disease, an apartment in an assisted living facility may be enough care to keep the person safe but still engaged with a community and activities. Later on, full-time memory care can be necessary as speech and motor functions decline. Memory care is different from a regular nursing home in that they offer more supervision and often activities and therapies geared towards making people with dementia comfortable. A sense of security is important and patients should be able to bring personal items such as photos or keepsakes to make it feel like home. Visit several places before deciding where to place your loved one. Make sure they can get care specifically geared towards their needs such as heightened supervision and a sense of dignity with clean clothes, frequent bathing, and receiving visits from family at any time.

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