Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease

denise_alcoeurDenise VanTassell RN, BS, LNHA, CALA
Alcoeur Gardens

Alzheimer’s is a degenerative brain disease that usually begins gradually, causing a person to forget recent events or familiar tasks. How rapidly it advances varies from person to person, but the disease eventually leads to confusion, personality and behavior changes and impaired judgment.

Communication becomes more difficult as the disease progresses, leaving those affected struggling to find words, finish thoughts or follow directions. Eventually, most people with Alzheimer’s disease become unable to care for themselves.

Scientists still are not certain what causes the disease. Advancing age and family history are risk factors. The role of genetics is being explored, but most agree it’s caused by a variety of factors.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease

There is no single, comprehensive test for Alzheimer’s. Instead, doctors rule out other conditions through a process of elimination. They usually conduct physical, psychological and neurological exams and take a thorough medical history.

There is no medical treatment currently available to cure or stop the progression of Alzheimer’s. There are five FDA-approved drugs that may temporarily relieve some symptoms. Several other drugs are in development.

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease

Common symptoms of Alzheimer’s include: memory loss that affects job skills, difficulty performing familiar tasks, problems with language, disorientation to time and place, poor or decreased judgment, problems with abstract thinking, placing items in inappropriate places, rapid changes in mood or behavior, dramatic changes in personality and loss of initiative.

Care Options for Patients with Alzheimer’s Disease

fromtheheartCaring for your loved one is a big challenge in itself, so it’s important to remind yourself that you are doing everything you can.

The best care for each person differs depending upon the patient, the caregiver and the timing. Ultimately, we all want an environment for the patient that is as comfortable and as safe as possible throughout the different stages of the disease.

For some patients and caregivers, staying at home throughout the illness may be the best option. But many patients benefit by living in a care facility with more people with whom they can interact, activities tailored for their abilities and a routine environment that can accommodate their frequently disordered schedules.

Patients often do much better than expected by family and friends when they move to a care facility. It is an option you should consider before you get “worn out”, which is not good for you or your loved one.

Some other options include adult day care and respite care for short-term relief. Explore all options, but do get additional help.

Explore the Possibilities

Keep in mind that no decision has to be permanent. If a person does not appear to be adjusting in a new place after a month or two, the decision can be revisited or you can examine other options that may work out better.

Explore the possibilities with the Alzheimer’s Association in your area or visit: www. alz.org.

Alcoeur Gardens is a fully licensed, R.N. directed community regulated by the New Jersey Division of Community Affairs and County Board of Social Services

(Reprinted from: www.alz.org)