Address Alzheimer’s early with a loved one

by Amy Devito

Make sure to encourage the individual suffering with Alzheimer’s disease to stick to a schedule of old habits, MCT CAMPUS
Make sure to encourage the individual suffering with Alzheimer’s disease to stick to a schedule of old habits, MCT CAMPUS

There are some memories that last a lifetime, shaping the future and defining the years ahead. But, what if a bigger force threatens to derail those memories and unravel the cherished keepsakes?

Alzheimer’s disease  — a common form of dementia that attacks nerves in the brain  — impacts more than 5 million Americans, but that number is sure to increase if a treatment is not found soon. The onset age is typically around 65, but signs can appear much sooner.

Although it is impossible to prevent Alzheimer’s disease from appearing, there are several potential indicators that may allow a victim to catch the disease in its early stages.

Recognizable symptoms include the affected individual’s inability to acquire new memories and confusion about their surroundings.

“There are signs to watch out for when concerned about a family member or friend,” Carol Steinberg, executive vice president of Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, said.

“Not being able to remember times and places, lack of judgment, completing familiar actions, changes in mood and personality and difficulty completing complex mental tasks such as balancing a checkbook … many people still attribute signs like this to normal aging, but it’s critical to understand that Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of aging.”

Addressing a loved one to get a medical exam or brain scan to check for Alzheimer’s disease is not an easy conversation and can cause tension and stress. But it’s imperative to be on the lookout for evidence early on — if someone asks the same questions repeatedly or cannot quite grasp a concept as easily as they should, he or she could potentially have the terminal disease.

Initially, it may be an awkward situation to address, but ignoring the onset of this disease has far worse consequences.

“Get educated about Alzheimer’s disease so you know what to expect now and in the future,” Steinberg said. “There’s no exact blueprint for this disease, but knowing as much as you can about symptoms, disease progression and other issues can help you cope with the disease and plan for the future.”

Keep an open dialogue with the individual’s physician and surround the person with as much support as possible. Adult day care services are also available within local communities and can facilitate the process for everyone. Try to help Grandma or

Grandpa stick to routines, and don’t change the location of objects in the house or move schedules around. Above all, patience is the key to keeping everyone as stress-free as possible.

“When a caregiver is caring for (someone) with Alzheimer’s disease it can be very tough for them,” Steinberg said.

“The Alzheimer’s sufferer will experience a great deal during the tough diagnosis and symptoms of the incurable disease, but the caregiver will experience the same amount of upset throughout their loved one’s care,” Ron Kustek, President of GeriCareFinder, said. “Oftentimes we think that our job as a caregiver is to take care of our loved one fully, but remember we must take care of ourselves so that we are able to continue caring for our loved ones.”

It’s important to remember that although it may seem like it’s up to the family to completely take care of a loved one, there is no shortage of outside help. Both parties can benefit from home-care nurses.

Alzheimer’s disease may have a detrimental impact on those who are diagnosed and the loved ones connected to that person, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t avenues to find help. Currently the disease is incurable.  However, through proper planning and a hands-on approach toward the issue, the disease can be far more manageable for everyone.