It does not care where you live or what kind of house you live in, it does not care how large or small your bank account is, it does not matter what kind of car you drive, it does not care about the color of your skin, it prefers older people but at times it likes younger people too. It does not care that it takes a life (your life) to a very unfamiliar place. A place we all do not care to go. What is it? Alzheimer’s disease! It has become a familiar term, but yet our society is still not in tune.
Why do people wait to educate themselves about this disease? When it has become almost an everyday term and has become apart of all our lives. It is practically every week I get another call or a visit from a family that is living with dementia. Remember, Dementia is an umbrella term and under that umbrella there are 85-90 different conditions of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease being the number one condition of dementia. Alzherimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. There is still no known cure for this disease. But until there is a cure, there is care, there is education and there are many resources that will help you on this journey. It is better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it!!
According to www.webd.com, you can help support your loved one that is living with Alzheimer’s disease by learning how the conditions unfold. The stages of this disease does not calculate into neat boxes; the symptoms may vary. Remember I told you that this disease affects each person in a different way. There are general symptoms, that all people living with Alzheimer’s disease will experience. Only a PET scan, an imaging test that shows how the brain is working, can reveal the truth. In the beginning, the early stages you may notice a slight change in behavior. As time goes on you may notice subtle changes, such as forgetting a word or misplacing things. Now here is where is gets tricky, remember I shared in a past article normal/not normal aging. As we get older we will misplace things and we will forget names. Do not jump to conclusions, the summing-up of it all may just be normal aging! If you suspect dementia is the culprit, you will want to consult with your Health Care Provider. As time goes on you will notice that the person living with Alzheimer’s disease will forget something that they have just read, ask the same questions over and over and over again. They will have trouble making plans or organizing. At this point you may be employed to act as your loved ones “memory”. Remember, you need to get affairs in order. At this point if you have not already consider those “Advance Directives” and “Health Care Power of Attorney”. As time continues your loved one may need help with everyday chores and new issues will appear, they may forget the right date or put the wrong amount on a check. They may have trouble ordering from a menu or have trouble cooking a meal. Don’t bring this to their attention, you do not want them to feel inadequate. Just be aware and keep up with this decline. You may discretely offer to assist. Remember you are the one with the good brain, they are doing the best they can do. You can change, they can not. As this disease progresses your loved one might start to lose track of time or get confused about what kind of clothes to wear for the day or season. Delusions could set in, such as thinking they need to go to work even though they are retired and no longer working.
After reading over this article and pondering on past articles, I realize I have shared with you what to expect. I have not given any solutions as to how to handle these changes. I really do not know if I can make any suggestions. Listening to the many caregivers over the years, I have found what works for some may or may not work for others. You really have to be innovative — always remembering those three deep breaths and never giving up with trying new ways.
In the formula of life, do not leave God out. Let Him be the first digit you put in. To get to the equation you desire in which several factors must be taken into account. Faith, Support, Positive Attitude, Tenacity, Innovation, Patients, Hope and Love. The end result will calculate with the highest return when you start with Him. You are going to have times of despair in life in general, but even more so with this disease. You as a caregiver will need that perfect formula to survive. I listen to many caregivers, and what I have learned from them is that they could not do what they do if it were not for their Faith in God. How does this all add up? You figure it out! Keep in touch, I do not want you to miss anything! Hope you have a “Best Day Ever”.
Lesia Henderson is the aging specialist with the Sampson County Department of Aging.