The sixth leading cause of death across the United States is Alzheimer’s disease, the third highest fatal disorder for American citizens over the age of 65. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia in older people and the disease is essentially when a person suffers a steady decline of all cognitive functioning.
It is our duty to raise awareness of this debilitating disease across the United States.
Symptoms and Signs
As in any other situation, every individual is different and the effect Alzheimer’s disease has on a person varies greatly depending on the individual afflicted. Typically, however, the onset of Alzheimer’s is noticeable by a decline in a person’s short and/or long-term memory. In particular, vision and spatial issues, impaired judgment and a regular loss of words during mid-conversation.
In the initial stages of Alzheimer’s, symptoms are sometimes accompanied by an inability to carry out daily chores at the same pace, as well as behavioral and personality changes, repetitive questioning and a tendency to wander away, disorientated. As Alzheimer’s begins to take hold, significant damage occurs to parts of the brain that enable thought, reasoning and language. Often, older people also struggle with sensory processing. Memory loss tends to happen more frequently and for longer amounts of time and your loved one may begin to struggle to recognize you or other family members. This memory loss is often accompanied by an inability to retain new information or an inability to learn new things. Individuals suffering with Alzheimer’s disease often experience increased difficulty in dressing, bathing and personal hygiene.
In the most severe cases, Alzheimer’s renders the person completely unable to communicate and therefore entirely reliant on other people for their care.
The Best Way to Communicate
Your first conversation with someone who has Alzheimer’s, however severe their current symptoms are, can be a troubling, stressful and often deeply upsetting event. However, your duty to your loved one is to remain as calm and as positive as you can be, given the circumstances. When you talk, be careful to sit where your loved one can see and hear you as clearly as possible, where you are well-lit and directly opposite. Speak at a slower pace than usual and don’t jump from topic to topic, ensuring you talk in short and simple sentences.
It is crucial and necessarily respectful to never talk to your loved one like a child; instead, be patient and show them unwavering respect at all times. Avoid quick-fire questioning and instead take your time and even more importantly let them take their time, in answering.
However tempting it is to fall back on reminiscing about previous memories and adventures with your loved one, asking them if they remember a particular event can be a painful and frustrating question for someone suffering with Alzheimer’s. Let them lead the conversation and if they reference a memorable event from the past, let them tell you about it and not the other way around. Always be patient and show sensitivity at all times. For example, if your loved one has forgotten that someone has died, there is no need to incessantly remind them.
Professional Care Options
Assisted living facilities such as assisted living San Diego are a practical and suitable housing alternative to a nursing home or similar facility, especially for older family members. An assisted living complex is essentially a designed neighborhood consisting of numerous homes where professionally trained staff are constantly available to provide help, assistance, care and medical attention should it be needed.
Another option is respite care in adult day centers, which offer people with Alzheimer’s disease the opportunity to socialize with others with similar dementia-based afflictions and to participate in old and new hobbies and activities in a safe, secure and controlled environment. Adult day centers can benefit both your loved one who is suffering with dementia and yourself or their primary caregiver who will benefit from a well-deserved break.
The third most favored option for loved ones of people suffering with Alzheimer’s disease is the option to hire in-home care services, which are provided at home rather than in a professional medical facility. Again, this is a good way to take pressure off the primary caregiver and has the added benefit of maintaining routine and familiarity for your loved one. There are several different types of in-home care services, which include personal care services, homemaker services, skilled care services and companionship services, all of which benefit individuals with specific needs.
Your loved one’s doctor can advise on the most suitable in-home care service based on your loved one’s specific needs and how those needs will change moving forward. Should you decide that this option is the best for your relative, be sure to check with the services that the professional caregiver(s) are trained in dementia care, available at erratic times of the day and night, are trained in first aid and CPR and available to provide references upon request.
The 7 Stages of the Disease
People suffering with Alzheimer’s disease usually go through seven stages, however, it is pertinent to note that every individual is different and the disease can affect one person in a completely different way than another person.
Stage one is when your loved one is still displaying normal outward behavior and only a PET scan would reveal the presence of the disease. Stage two is when slight changes occur, little differences that even a trained professional may not notice and as a person moves to stage three, they start to experience a mild decline and begin to show several of the symptoms outlined above.
As the disease starts to take hold of a person, they move through the stages each time experiencing a sharper and more severe decline, until they reach stage seven. This final stage is when many basic abilities and functions controlled by your brain no longer work and they often need help with the most fundamental activities.
You can rest assured you’re doing everything possible to make this process as comfortable as possible.