What Is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia that slowly steals the minds of its victims, leading to memory loss, confusion, changes in personality, disorientation and the inability to communicate. It is not part of the normal aging process and should not be mistaken for normal forgetfulness.
Every 66 seconds, someone in the U.S. develops Alzheimer’s disease. In 1983, less than 2 million Americans had Alzheimer’s; today, that number is nearly 5.4 million. The disease usually begins after age 60.
5% of men and women ages 65 to 74 are afflicted. The number of people with Alzheimer’s doubles every 5 years beyond age 65. Nearly half of individuals age 85 and older may have the disease.
There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s. It is a degenerative disease and all sufferers eventually require 24-hour supervised care. However, there are a number of medications that can slow the progression of the disease so early detection is important.
Having a loved one with Alzheimer’s can be very difficult for the family because as the disease progresses, sufferers become unable to remember the names and faces of their family members.
Alzheimer’s may make older adults vulnerable to financial fraud or abuse.
How to Recognize Alzheimer’s
The Alzheimer’s Association has published the following 10 warning signs and symptoms to help family members recognize the signs of Alzheimer’s and distinguish them from typical age-related changes in cognition or behavior.
1) Memory Loss that Disrupts Daily Life
One of the most common signs of Alzheimer’s is forgetting recently learned information, important dates or events, or asking the same questions over and over. People in the middle stages of Alzheimer’s may forget how to do simple tasks like brushing their teeth or combing their hair. Eventually, they fail to recognize familiar faces. An increasing reliance on memory aids such as reminder notes is also common.
Typical age-related change: Sometimes forgetting names or appointments but remembering them later.
2) Challenges in Planning or Solving Problems
Some people may experience changes in their ability to develop a plan, work with numbers, keep track of monthly bills or even follow a familiar recipe. They may also have trouble concentrating or take much longer to perform common tasks than they did previously.
Typical age-related change: Making occasional errors when balancing a checkbook.
3) Difficulty Completing Familiar Tasks at Home, at Work or at Leisure
Individuals with Alzheimer’s often have trouble completing daily tasks such as driving to familiar locations, managing a budget or remembering the rules of a favorite game.
Typical age-related change: Occasionally needing help to use the settings on a microwave or to record a television show.
4) Confusion with Time or Place
Alzheimer’s sufferers can lose track of dates, seasons or the passage of time. Sometimes they may forget where they are or how they got there.
Typical age-related change: Getting confused about the day of the week but figuring it out later.
5) Trouble Understanding Visual Images and Spatial Relationships
Some individuals with Alzheimer’s have difficulty reading, judging distance and determining color or contrast. This can cause problems with driving.
Typical age-related change: Vision changes related to cataracts.
6) New Problems with Words in Speaking or Writing
Individuals with Alzheimer’s may have trouble following or joining a conversation. They may stop in the middle of a conversation and have no idea how to continue or they may repeat themselves. They may struggle with vocabulary, have problems finding the right word or call things by the wrong name.
Typical age-related change: Occasionally having trouble finding the right word.
7) Misplacing Things and Losing the Ability to Retrace Steps
A person with Alzheimer’s disease may put things in unusual places (e.g. the fridge). They may lose things and be unable to retrace their steps to find them again. They may increasingly accuse others of stealing.
Typical age-related change: Misplacing things from time to time and retracing steps to find them.
8) Decreased or Poor Judgment
People with Alzheimer’s may increasingly make poor decisions. For example, they may use poor judgment when dealing with money and can easily be convinced to give large amounts to telemarketers or be defrauded by con artists. They may also pay less attention to grooming or keeping themselves clean.
Typical age-related change: Making a bad decision once in a while.
9) Withdrawal From Work or Social Activities
Individuals with Alzheimer’s may withdraw from social activities and sports or lose interest in hobbies. They may have trouble keeping up with a favorite sports team.
Typical age-related change: A desire to lead a slower paced lifestyle.
10) Changes in Mood and Personality
People with Alzheimer’s can become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious. They may become easily upset or even aggressive at home, at work or with friends. They may also become sleepless or wander away from home.
Typical age-related change: Developing very specific ways of doing things and becoming irritable when a routine is disrupted.
If you notice any of the warning signs of Alzheimer’s in yourself or someone you know, don’t ignore them — schedule an appointment with your doctor immediately.
If a positive diagnosis is made, it is important to get a plan and a care team in place as soon as possible.
Services Provided by Our Alzheimer Care Aides
Often spouses and other family members begin by providing day-to-day care for loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease. However, as the disease progresses, individuals need increased care and this can become a strain on caregivers and their families. Eventually, all Alzheimer’s sufferers will need 24-hour care and their caregivers will face a choice of placing their loved one in a nursing home, memory care facility or using home care.
Moving an Alzheimer’s patient to a nursing home or memory care facility can result in confusion, stress, and agitation. In-Home Care allows your loved one to stay in familiar surroundings with a minimum of disruption to their daily routines. This option will be less disorienting both for your loved one and your family.
Our aides are trained to provide empathetic, patient and compassionate care to those with Alzheimer’s. They’ll help your loved one feel safe and calm, be able to offer emotional support and companionship, and provide assistance around the house. They will also offer you much needed respite from caring for your loved one around-the-clock.
Care will be customized to the personal needs of each individual. At first you may only need our aides to check in with your loved one for a few hours a day to provide companionship, monitor their activities and remind them to take their medications. As the disease progresses, 24-hour Live-In Care may be required to prevent wandering and ensure that your loved one is safe at all times.
Our aides are experienced at identifying and managing behavioral changes such as increased aggression. They are skilled at providing gentle verbal cues and continuous assurances to alleviate feelings of confusion or bewilderment and will establish consistent routines to minimize anxiety in your family member and ensure that they are safe, well-groomed, eating properly and staying active.
Individuals who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s often suffer from late-day confusion which is known as Sundowning Syndrome. Your loved one may exhibit signs of extreme agitation, anxiety or confusion as the sun sets and it gets dark outside. During these moments, it is crucial that a qualified and well-trained aide is by their side to keep them calm and safe.
Our aides will:
- Act as reassuring companions
- Assist with bathing, showering, toileting, oral care, hair care and dressing
- Prepare meals
- Perform light housekeeping
- Assist with laundry
- Remind your loved one to take their medications
- Encourage your loved one to stay active and involved in recreational and stimulating activities (e.g., walking, playing games, listening to music, etc.)