Alzheimer’s Disease is still not well understood in spite of being a well-known disease that affects millions of people. To raise awareness of what the disease is and how it affects families, caregivers and medical professionals, November has been made National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. During this month, events to bring more awareness to the disease are held so information can be shared in the hope that combining efforts will result in finding better treatments and an eventual cure for the disease.
Many people are not aware that Alzheimer’s ranks 6th among the leading causes of death. It’s shocking that more people die from Alzheimer’s than from prostate cancer and breast cancer combined. Also, of all the leading causes of death, Alzheimer’s is the only one still on the rise. As of yet, causes of the disease are not fully known. Some risk factors are known and progress has been made in diagnosing it. Some treatments are available but it cannot be cured at this time.
You may have a family member or a loved one who might have Alzheimer’s but they haven’t been diagnosed. If so, here are some signs to look for that may indicate the onset of the disease.
- Memory loss. If a person can remember events from their past but recent memories are forgotten, it could be a sign of Alzheimer’s.
- Language difficulties. While most people stumble on a word at times, someone with Alzheimer’s will have difficulty with common everyday words. It may become difficult to understand what they say.
- Repeating things. Does your family member repeat questions or stories even right after asking or telling them?
- Being confused or disoriented. Even in places they have known for years, Alzheimer’s patients may not know where they are. They can also forget what they are doing, such as cooking.
- Changed personality. Mood swings are common. A person with this disease may become angry or upset without any reason. One of the most upsetting aspects for family is a sudden distrust of the family but complete trust in someone they have never seen before.
- Odd or changed behavior. If you notice anomalies such as changes in dressing or the individual is wearing the same clothes every day and doesn’t bathe or puts things in places that are completely wrong such as a hairbrush in the oven, these could be signs of Alzheimer’s.
Recently, studies are showing another possible indicator of Alzheimer’s. The sense of smell appears to diminish in Alzheimer’s patients and could be one of the earliest signs, showing even before there is any memory loss. Studies are being done using peanut butter to test smelling ability on people with risk factors for Alzheimer’s. Treatments are more effective the earlier the disease is diagnosed so this study shows a lot of promise in providing earlier and more effective treatment.
Families often try to keep loved ones afflicted with Alzheimer’s at home and care for them on their own for as long as possible. In the earlier stages of the disease, this is possible but it does instill a heavy toll on the family. Breaks from caregiving are necessary from time to time so non-family caregivers come in to give the family some respite. As Alzheimer’s progresses, families are often not able to continue giving the necessary care at home. At this point, a skilled memory care facility is more appropriate.
A memory care facility isn’t just a nursing home. It is designed to provide care for Alzheimer’s patients and those afflicted with other forms of dementia. These facilities are usually secured so residents cannot leave on their own. This is for their safety and the safety of others. Some places have privacy fenced yards or gardens so residents can safely spend time outdoors. Programs and activities are focused on exercising the mind to keep it as functional as possible. Physical therapy and exercise are offered to keep patients active and healthy. Medications are managed so patients get what they need at the right times. Healthy meals, laundry, cleaning, personal assistance and full time supervision are also provided.
If you have a family member or know someone with Alzheimer’s, take time in November to do what you can to raise awareness of this devastating disease. We are here to help in any way that we can. Please click here if you would like our help and we will be in touch shortly.