Your classmate just called to tell you that your favorite college professor can no longer recall the current month or day of the week. Your neighbor who used to love cooking elaborate meals now becomes overwhelmed just trying to choose her breakfast cereal. And the father of four from your church, who just celebrated his 60th wedding anniversary, can no longer recognize his wife or children. These people, along with their families, are all experiencing the devastating effects of dementia. A disease that is projected to affect 13.5 million Americans and 1.2 million Canadians by mid-century.
What is Dementia?
Characterized by memory loss and a cognitive decline that interferes with daily life, dementia progressively weakens a person's thought processing ability, ultimately causing drastic changes in mood, behavior and memory.
Today, Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of dementia, affects close to six million people in the U.S. and Canada. Learn more about the Impact of Alzheimer's and Dementia. Despite its prevalence, Alzheimer's and related dementias are not a normal part of aging. Alzheimer's causes irreversible changes to the brain that result in problems communicating, thinking, and taking care of basic needs. Symptoms vary as the disease affects each person differently, but individuals with Alzheimer's inevitably advance through increasingly debilitating stages, requiring progressively more intense levels of care.
Knowing some of Alzheimer's warning signs can help you identify when changes taking place in your loved one go beyond typical age-related changes and may signify the effects of brain disease. According to the Alzheimer's Association, occasionally misplacing items, temporarily getting confused, or forgetting someone's name but remembering it later are all typical age-related changes. Signs that point to Alzheimer's may be similar but more severe, including:
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life
- Changes in planning or solving problems
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks
- 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
If you observe one or more of these 10 warning signs of Alzheimer's in your loved one, please talk to a medical professional.
Alzheimer's Care Essentials
Although Alzheimer's disease currently has no known deterrent or cure, specific methods of care can help manage the symptoms of dementia. For example, maintaining routines and simplifying tasks may reduce fear and confusion. WebMD also suggests that a caregiver adapt activities and a routine to allow the person with Alzheimer's to participate as much as possible.
As the stages of dementia progress, the person affected will require increasing amounts of care. In the early stages, according to Caring.com, people with Alzheimer's typically have both "good" days when you don't notice unusual behavior, and "bad" days when they forget they have a pie in the oven, or call you in a panic because they have been driving around for an hour unable to find the local grocery store. It's important to watch out for "bad day" situations like these as they will only become more frequent and dangerous, clearly indicating a need for more supervision. Web MD suggests you should take steps to remove things that could endanger your loved one, such as hiding the car keys and matches. In advanced stages, people with Alzheimer's may begin to wander, or they may become hostile and violent at times, posing a danger to themselves and others. A caregiver can create a safer environment and help minimize their source of frustration to reduce wandering or hostile behavior.
Visit our Alzheimer's and dementia resource center for additional insight on caring for individuals suffering from this disease.
How Home Instead Can Help
The services provided through the Home Instead Senior Care network's unique CARE: Changing Aging through Research and Education program are an invaluable solution to help your loved one cope with the challenges of Alzheimer's disease or a related dementia. Our expert-endorsed Alzheimer's and Dementia CARE training program prepares our network's CAREGivers to:
- Encourage engagement
- Provide mind-stimulating activities
- Supervise daily activities
- Create social interaction
- Help to maintain a safe environment
- Provide nutritious meals
- Help to manage changing behaviors
- Support the family
Home Instead CAREGivers provide the highest quality of care, changing the way people live with Alzheimer's or other dementias.
Visit our Alzheimer's and dementia care section to learn more about our services and program.