Sunday, January 25, 2015

What Do You Know About Alzheimer's?

What's Wrong with My Grandmother? Could it be Alzheimer's?

Hey, it's normal for all of us to be a little forgetful as we get older but when our loved ones become a little too forgetful it's time to check things out. So all I'm saying is we have to make sure that the "senior moment" we're having isn't anything more than just that a moment and not a bigger problem! How do we distinguish the difference between the two "senior moment or a serious problem like Alzheimer's disease? One amazing fact about Alzheimer's that I'll share with you is that one in eight people 65 and older have this horrible form of dementia. Now, the horrible beginning stages of Alzheimer's may not be noticeable to you, your family and friends but you do need to learn the signs. I'm sure you know someone or you have had someone in your family that was suffering from this horrible disease. So stay with me and read on so you too will know the signs and what to look for.

Do You Know the Warning Signs?

In the beginning stages of Alzheimer's, it's weird because the disease doesn't really affect our long-term memories which usually stay intact. It's our short-term memories that become a big blur. Now it doesn't mean that every time you or a loved one forgets a conversation or repeats a question that already has been answered, OMG it's Alzheimer's. This horrible disease will also disrupt speech, so there may be a struggle to remember simple commonly used words.

How Does it Affect Behavior?

Aside from a loss in memory, Alzheimer's can cause the person to be confused and their behavior can change as well. One thing that happens often is the person gets lost easily in familiar places. Where they live is a common issue with getting lost they can't find their way home or even remember how to get home! Talk about moody, the mood swings, poor judgment are also common behavioral issues along with poor hygiene. People who once represented with their style may start looking like they just got out of bed.

STOP! Are You Ignoring the Signs?

Now, I know first hand that it's difficult to face the fact that a loved one may have Alzheimer's, however it's always better to talk to a doctor sooner rather than later. First of all, it may not have anything to do with Alzheimer's after all. The symptoms could be caused by a highly treatable problem for example; thyroid imbalance. If it is Alzheimer's, treatments work best when they are used in the early stages of any disease.

How is Alzheimer's Diagnosed?

It is not an easy task for an Alzheimer's patient, the doctor will rely on you to describe the changes you've seen in your loved one. A mental status test that is given called a "mini-cog," or other screening tests used to help evaluate the patient's mental function and short-term memory. In addition, there are neurological exams and brain scans that are commonly used to rule out other problems, such as a stroke or tumor. Many different tests are used now to help provide other information about the brain.

How Does Alzheimer's Affect the Brain?

Alzheimer's disease causes nerve cell death and tissue loss throughout the brain. As the disease advances and becomes worse, the brain tissue shrinks and the ventricles (chambers within the brain that contain cerebrospinal fluid) become larger. The damage interrupts communication between brain cells which in turn cripples memory, speech, and comprehension.

What to Expect with the Disease?

Alzheimer's disease affects each of us differently. However, in some people the symptoms get worse quickly, leading then to severe memory loss and desperate confusion within a few years. In others, the changes may be more gradual and take 20 years to run its course. The average length of survival after a diagnosis of Alzheimer's is three to nine years. Catching the disease in it's early stages as stated earlier in this article is key to living longer and independently.

How Does the Disease Affect Our Daily Life
 
Alzheimer's affects our concentration, patients may lose the ability to control ordinary tasks like cooking or paying the bills. A study showed difficulty with balancing a checkbook is one of the first effects people afflicted with the disease find hard to do. As the disease progresses, your loved one will eventually not recognize you or their home. He or she may get lost easily, or use utensils improperly, such as combing their hair with a fork. In the advanced stages, the afflicted will not be able to control their bladder (incontinence), can have overall balance problems, and the ability to speak in the advanced stages.

Would You Let Your Loved One Drive with Alzheimer's? Well Don't!

An Alzheimer's victim has poor coordination, memory loss, and confusion which doesn't make for a good safe driver and is a combination that shouldn't be behind the wheel. If you feel your loved one should not be driving, explain why and if they are adamant in driving get the doctor involved immediately. If the patient still insists on driving, contact the Department of Motor Vehicles to alert them and they will give the person an assessment. Be sure to make an alternate arrangements for your loved one's transportation needs.

How Does Exercise Affect Alzheimer's?

It helps maintain some muscle strength and coordination which especially keeps the person moving and using their coordination. It has been found that exercise can improve your mood so this can make a huge impact in your loved ones life also keeping them independent longer. Check with your loved one's doctor to learn which types of exercise are the right types of exercise. It has been noted in studies that repetitive activities, such as walking, weeding, or even as simple as folding laundry may be the most effective at promoting a sense of calm.

What Medications are Used to Treat Alzheimer's?

It is a fact that at this time there isn't a cure for Alzheimer's disease, and currently no known cure to slow down the nerve damage within the brain caused by this horrible disease. But there are a variety of medications that appear to help maintain mental function and slow down the disease progression. If these treatments are given during the early stages of Alzheimer's, your loved one may be able to remain independent and carry out daily tasks for a longer period of time.


What to Expect in the Caregiver's Role?

As the caregiver of someone with Alzheimer's, you will probably wear many hats. Some of the easy tasks we do daily in our every day lives such as cook, accountant and their transportation. Anything that has to do with daily life tasks you will provide them or assist them when needed to complete these daily life tasks. While you may have to handle the person's household on the meal planning and finances, encourage the patient to do some activities independently. It may help to label cabinets with their contents and put up sticky notes with reminders of daily tasks. Be sure to buy a weekly pill box for medications.

What Are the Challenges in Caregiving?

In the early stages of Alzheimer's, patients often understand what is happening and may be ashamed or even anxious. Be sure to watch for these signs and also depression because these signs  can often be managed with medication and counseling. In the more advanced stages, your loved one may become paranoid or violent and could even turn on you. They love you, remember that it's the disease that is responsible for this change. Your loved one may not even realize what is happening to them at this point. Don't take it personal it's the disease continuing to progress. Always remember to report any changes to the doctor about violent behavior promptly.

What is the Sundown Syndrome?

This strange affect of Alzheimer's that is really misunderstood as to the cause but some people with Alzheimer's become distressed when the sun goes down. This agitation tends to last through the evening and sometimes all night. It's a true mystery but there are some strategies to ease the tension. Close the drapes or blinds prior to sunset and turn on all the lights if you have to that will keep the house well lit. Hey you know this person, maybe they have a hobby or a favorite movie or TV show. Try to distract your loved one, get their attention and move it to something they love.

How Will You Feel When Your Loved One Doesn't Recognize You?

It's horrible when your loved one no longer recognizes you! However, this is certainly where this horrible disease will lead them. It's difficult for someone with Alzheimer's to remember names even the name of close family members. One strategy that works to assist the person afflicted is to put pictures everywhere of their family and friends and be sure to label the pictures with the name of the person in the picture. This will help them during this stage of Alzheimer's but eventually, the patient may no longer recognize faces and may react to loved ones as if they are strangers. You must alert family and friends of this so they can be prepared to react appropriately. This can really be a distressing time for family members, especially the primary caregiver who is generally a very close family member or friend. My mother really went through a lot emotionally when my Grandmother didn't recognize her anymore. I know this is a horrible feeling and can make you depressed but you have to stay strong like my mother did and keep everything as normal as possible.

What are the Warning Signs of Caregiver Stress?

Caring for someone with Alzheimer's can be physically and mentally draining on the Caregiver. So, if you or someone you know is dealing with being a caregiver or watchman you must know that they will be suffering from extreme stress. Get to know the signs of stress so you can also assist  the caregiver who is a very special person to take on this role and needs support as well. Here is a list of the main signs to watch out for:

•Anger, sadness, and mood swings
•Headaches or back pain
•Difficulty concentrating
•Difficulty sleeping

How Do I Take Care of the Caregiver?

Because this role is essential to your loved one afflicted with Alzheimer's, avoid caregiver burnout and make sure you take at least a few minutes to do something you enjoy every day. Take some time out of your day to take of yourself. Set aside some "me" time to do hobbies, watch your favorite show or just take a quick nap whatever makes you happy. This will give you a break from the sadness and heartache of watching someone you love suffer. They don't really know their suffering but it has changed their life forever. Find a friend or relative to be your support person. There are many online sites and local community outreach programs or groups that you can join. The Internet can offer great forums to discuss what your going through and get assistance as well. Check out the support group through the Alzheimer's Association this is a great resource site for the disease.

What Choices Do You Have for Care?

We want to keep our independence as long as we can in life. There will come a time when 24 hour nursing care is essential. Studies show that many patients with Alzheimer's expressed the desire to remain in their home as long as possible. Again, keep their independence and live a normal life if possible. However, when afflicted with Alzheimer's this may be a difficult task when getting dressed or using the bathroom are difficult daily tasks and can't be done without assistance. The following are several options you can research:

Home Health Care- This benefit is generally offered in Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug Plans. A Home Health Agency can offer a Home Health Aide to assist with personal hygiene and all of the daily tasks we have each and every day of our lives. There are also local services in your community to assist with nutrition, transportation and other needs. This level of care is for people that don't need 24 hour care and are still fairly independent.

Assisted Living Facilities- There will come a day when your loved one can no longer be cared for at home. This is a very difficult period and you should be prepared in advance for in order to smoothly transition your loved one through this stage of the illness. If he or she does not need 24-hour nursing care, an assisted-living facility may be an appropriate choice and is less expensive. ALFs provide housing, meals, and activities and is as close to living independently.
You want to do your research so you can place your loved one in a facility offering the best care or assistance. Finding a facility that has a special curriculum and care needed by someone suffering from Alzheimer's. Many of the facilities have a special unit for Dementia which is very closely related to Alzheimer's.

Hospice Care- During the final stages of Alzheimer's the care options are really limited to hospice care. Your loved one will eventually lose the ability to walk, talk, or respond to others. Consequently, the disease can inhibit vital functions, such as the ability to swallow. Hospice care provides pain relief and comfort to the terminally ill. You want your loved one to be as comfortable as possible in the last days of their life.

This is a good time to prepare children in their lives. Children have to cope with this loss and they don't really understand what is happening but know that someone they love is not going to be there much longer. Children may feel confused, afraid, or even resentful when a family member is affected by Alzheimer's. Let the child know these feelings are normal and answer his or her questions about the illness honestly. Always educate the child with the facts expressed in a way that they will understand what is happening. Help the child celebrate happy memories for example, by creating a scrapbook.

Is There Anything I Can Do to Reduce My Risk of Alzheimer's Disease?

If you're caring for a someone with Alzheimer's, you might be curious as to what you can do to reduce your own risk. Of course research in this area is ongoing, but diet and exercise appear to be key. Many Studies indicate a lower risk among people who eat a Mediterranean diet rich in vegetables, fish, and nuts. You should know by now if you read my health articles that eating right appears to be a main ingredient for most illnesses. It's true "We Are What We Eat"! Also studies suggest that those who are the most physically active are the least likely to get Alzheimer's.

So, there you have it! A little about one of those mystery diseases that can attack any one of us. Get busy now with putting your health plan together to stay healthy and fit. Below are some helpful links on the subject of Alzheimer's.
Come back soon to read, learn or just catch up with health information, tips and products. Leave a comment and let me know of health information you would like to read about. Who knows it may be the next topic of discussion on my blog! Thank you for visiting and like me on Facebook, check out my tweets and follow me. Share with your friends and family too!

Resource Links:

Alzheimer's Foundation

Alzheimer's Care Locator

Alzheimer's Caregiver Resources

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