Alzheimer’s is a serious brain disease that is the most common cause of dementia. This disease is progressive in memory loss and adversely effects one’s cognitive and functional behavioral skills. Because there is no cure to Alzheimer’s, those suffering from it will notice a continuous decline of health which eventually leads to death. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, approximately 5.3 million Americans over the age of 65 suffer with this illness. Within this number, “African-Americans are two times more likely to develop late-onset Alzheimer’s disease than whites and less likely to have a diagnosis of their condition, resulting in less time for treatment and planning.” African-Americans and Alzheimer’s.
Common symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s disease are:
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life
- Challenges in planning or solving problems
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure
- Confusion with time or place
- Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
- New problems with words in speaking or writing
- Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
- Decreased or poor judgment
- Withdrawal from work or social activities
- Changes in mood and personality
At this point, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, and the symptoms are irreversible. The condition of a patient suffering with this illness will continue to decline for years until the individual becomes debilitated and no longer able to communicate. Eventually it will reach the point where the patient will need a fulltime medical caregiver. Since there is no cure for this disease, treatment options are limited. “Drug and non-drug treatments may help with both cognitive and behavioral symptoms. Researchers are looking for new treatments to alter the course of the disease and improve the quality of life for people with dementia.” Treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.
Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease can be challenging for both the caregiver and the patient. Depending upon the stage of progression, most patients will need some form of assistance to help them perform their daily activities. In the beginning stages, this care is usually done with family members. As the patient’s condition worsens, nursing care or an assisted living home may be required. When caring for an Alzheimer’s patient, consider these following methods as ways of living and coping with the disease:
- Take life one day at a time. Realize when dealing with a dementia patient, there will be good days and bad days. Try to keep life simple for the patient by keeping them on a familiar routine. Avoid any challenging tasks; have realistic goals they can achieve for the day. Sometimes these goals are as simple as: getting out of bed in the morning, getting dressed and cleaned up for the day, eating meals, watching movies they like, listening to their favorite music, talking about the memories they remember, going for walks and doing fun crafts with them. Try to make the time enjoyable as possible; this will make life easy for both the caregiver and patient.
- Make sure the home is safe for the patient. Keep walkways clear of items that could be a trip hazard. Make sure the home is lit well for them to walk around. Keep hazardous materials locked away and out of sight. Have an alarm system installed in the home that will notify when an outside door is opened. Make sure to have functional fire alarms and fire extinguishers.
- Be a caregiver. Being a caregiver for someone all the time can be challenging, and there is nothing wrong with giving yourself a break from time to time. Try to set up schedules with family members, friends, or church members for extra help. There will be times where you will need emotional support; know that you can talk with others. Find out if there are support groups in your area to help deal with Alzheimer’s in your family.
Alzheimer’s disease is an uphill battle for both the patient and their family. Although treatment is limited, it is still better to get someone diagnosed earlier rather than later. This way medical care will start as soon as possible, and the doctor can find out if new treatments are a possibility for the patient.
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