Alzheimer’s is a memory-related condition that affects approximately 5.8 million Americans who are aged 65 or older, according to the American Alzheimer’s Association. It is also the sixth leading cause of death in the USA.
Finding out that a loved one has the condition can be a stressful and heartbreaking time. You may be wondering what to expect over the next few day, months, and years, and how to ensure that your friend or relative receives the care that they need to enjoy the quality of life that they deserve. Here are the facts that you need to know.
What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s disease affects a person’s memory, along with various other cognitive functions. A number of experts believe that the disease has genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors.
Most individuals with the disease report struggling with their short-term memory as their first symptom, while other symptoms include confusion, feeling lost in familiar places, inability to complete familiar tasks, and misplacing items.
What level of care is required?
That will depend heavily on how advanced the disease is. When still in the mild stages of Alzheimer’s, most individuals can continue to function relatively independently the majority of the time. However, as the disease continues to progress and your loved one experiences increasingly severe memory loss and personality changes, it will be time to look into organizing a higher level of care.
Some family members decide to handle the caregiving duties on their own, or together with other relatives. This can be a viable solution for some. However, it is important to note that caring for a person with Alzheimer’s is extremely taxing, both from a physical and emotional perspective. A great alternative is a senior living community that specializes in memory care for seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and dementia, such as Pegasus Senior Living. In-home care is another option to investigate.
If you do decide to tackle caring for your loved one at home on your own, it’s vital that you know how to avoid and how to recognize the signs of caregiver stress. Some of these symptoms include:
- Denial regarding your loved one’s diagnosis
- Anger towards your relative with Alzheimer’s
- Social withdrawal
- Depression and anxiety
- Difficulty falling asleep (insomnia) or frequent night-waking
- Chronic fatigue
- Difficulty concentrating
Be sure to speak to a doctor if you experience any of these symptoms.
How to help a loved one with Alzheimer’s
Patience is key. However, it is also a great idea to create and instill daily routines to help keep confusion to a minimum. If your relative starts to get agitated or scared, do your best to reassure them that you are there to assist them. Do not argue with the person even if they say something incorrect or inappropriate, and try to avoid becoming visibly angry or frustrated. Most importantly, take proper care of yourself. Managing your own stress when caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s is just as essential as managing their stress.
Best of luck as you try to adjust to your new ‘normal’ during these difficult times.