Forgetfulness can be a normal part of aging, but how can you tell when it’s more than just a “senior moment”? One in eight people 65 and older have Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s causes nerve cell death and tissue loss throughout the brain. As the disease progresses, brain tissue shrinks and areas containing cerebrospinal fluid become larger. In the first stages, this devastating form of dementia might not be noticeable to family and friends, but there are some early warning signs to look for.
Early Warning Signs:
With Alzheimer’s, long-term memories usually aren’t affected while short-term memories can become a fleeting moment. Your loved one may remember an event that happened over 50 years ago, but they can’t recall what they had for breakfast that day. Also take notice if your loved one is asking you questions that you’ve already answered multiple times.
Alzheimer’s also disrupts speech. The disease can cause seniors to struggle to remember common words.
Confusion and behavior changes are another sign of Alzheimer’s. Your loved one could have mood swings, lapse in judgment, and poor hygiene. It’s also not uncommon for someone with the disease to get lost in familiar places.
Testing for Alzheimer’s:
There is no simple test for Alzheimer’s. The doctor will need a friend or family member to describe the changes in your loved one. A mental status test can be done, or other screening tests to measure mental skills and short-term memory. A neurological exam and brain scans may also be done to rule out other problems, such as stroke or a brain tumor.
It’s hard to imagine that someone you love could have Alzheimer’s, but early detection is helpful. Do not put off scheduling an appointment with a Doctor because of the possible outcome. Alzheimer’s treatments work best when they are used early in the course of the disease.
Treatment for Alzheimer’s:
There is no known cure for Alzheimer’s and no known way to slow the nerve damage it causes in the brain. There are, however, medications that can help to maintain mental skills and slow the disease’s effects.
Caring for a loved one who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s can be mentally draining and physically exhausting. Watch for signs of caregiver stress, which can include mood swings, headache/back pain, difficulty with concentrating and trouble sleeping.
Home Health Care
If the responsibility of being your loved ones primary caregiver is too much, hiring an in-home caregiver is a great option. A caregiver can help your loved one stay as independent as possible while remaining in their own home. They can help with cooking, housekeeping, personal hygiene, doctors visits and other daily tasks.
There may come a time when your loved one can no longer be cared for at home. If 24-hour nursing care isn’t needed, an assisted-living facility could be a good choice. Assisted-living facilities are cheaper than nursing homes and provide housing, meals, and activities. Alzheimer’s special care units are also available if your loved one needs 24-hour supervision and personal care.
Seniors with advanced Alzheimer’s may lose their ability to walk, talk, or respond to others. The disease can eventually hinder vital functions. This may be the time to switch to hospice care, which provides pain relief and comfort for people with terminal illnesses.
When a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s it can be a stressful and scary time. Keep an eye out for the warning signs and seek medical attention as soon as possible. Early detection and treatment are vital for preserving brain function for as long as possible.