Navigating Alzheimer’s disease can be a challenging journey, not only for the person diagnosed but also for family members and home caregivers.
Our 3 part series on Alzheimer’s care will help guide you through the process of identifying, understanding, and handling Alzheimer’s disease and related behaviors that are especially important when caring for a loved one at home.
We start by learning what differentiates Alzheimer’s disease from normal aging and the 10 signs to watch out for.
Suspecting a loved one may be exhibiting signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease can be a stressful experience. Even if you fear the worst, learning to recognize the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and seeking help early on can improve your loved one’s chances of getting the best care possible, maximizing you’re their quality of life and time at home.
Note: The advice offered here is not a replacement for medical care. Always seek an expert opinion from your physician.
What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s Disease is the most familiar form of dementia, a serious brain disorder that involves progressive memory loss and cognitive decline. Memory impairment and cognitive disturbances in language, motor functioning, object recognition, and executive brain functions like planning are criteria of dementia. It is caused by chemical and structural changes to brain cells that causes them to deteriorate and shrink.
The prevalence of Alzheimer’s is drastically on the rise. By 2050, 15 million Americans will be diagnosed and the number of new cases increases each year. In fact, Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death for American age 65 and over. While other types of dementia exist, Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 50-80% of all dementia cases.
Alzheimer’s Disease and Home Care
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 70% percent of persons with Alzheimer’s disease are cared for at home. Home care can provide personalized care for someone dealing with Alzheimer’s and help keep them at home longer and maintain their dignity and comfort.
10 Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease usually develop slowly and gradually worsen over time, progressing from mild forgetfulness to widespread impairment.
Recognizing dementia early on will go a long way in enhancing the home care experience for your loved on diagnosed with AD. Early detection is key to ensuring your loved one received the highest quality of care.
Here are 10 signs to look for that may signal the presence of Alzheimer’s disease:
- Memory changes that disrupt daily life – Forgetting previously learned information is a very common sign, especially early in the disease. This can take the form of forgetting important dates, forgetting the names of family members, substituting words with inappropriate ones, or asking for the same information repeatedly.
- Challenges in planning or problem solving – Many people experience changes in their ability to develop and follow a plan or work with numbers. They are no longer able to manage their checkbook or follow the steps in a recipe.
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks – People with Alzheimer’s may find it hard to follow the rules to a familiar game or remember the steps for shifting gears in a car.
- Confusion with time or place – Those with Alzheimer’s can lose track of dates and seasons. Sometimes they forget where they are and how they got there or get lost in familiar places like a supermarket.
- Trouble understanding visual and spatial relationships – Some people have vision problems and experience difficulty reading, judging distance, or determining color. They may not recognize their own reflection.
- Problems with language, speaking, or writing – People with Alzheimer’s may have trouble following or joining a conversation. They may struggle with vocabulary and have problems finding the right word to call name an object.
- Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps – People with Alzheimer’s disease may place things in unusual places such as such as keys in the fridge, wallet in the dishwasher. They may lose things frequently and may accuse others of stealing.
- Decreased or poor judgment – People with Alzheimer’s may experience changes in judgment, such as giving large amounts to telemarketers. They may pay less attention to grooming and self-care, forgetting to shower or shave.
- Withdrawal from work or social activities – Those with Alzheimer’s commonly withdraw themselves from hobbies and social activities. They avoid being around because of changes to their memory, judgment, and speaking ability. Some may sit in front of the TV for hours or sleep much more than usual.
- Changes in mood and personality – People with Alzheimer’s can become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful, or anxious. They may be upset when they are out of their comfort zone and experience rapid mood swings for no discernible reason.
How to Cope with an Alzheimer’s Diagnosis
If your family member has received a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, you may be dealing with a storm of emotions and questions. Pause, and…:
- Give yourself some time to adjust. As with any major change in life, your family will need time to adjust to the transition. You may go through phases, feeling all right for a while then suddenly feeling overwhelmed again. This is completely normal.
- Educate yourself. Learn as much as you can about Alzheimer’s disease. Knowing what to expect can help you plan for your loved one’s care. A great place to start is with your local Alzheimer’s Association Chapter, which offers excellent readings, seminars, and support groups to help you through the caregiving process.
- Remember, don’t take the caregiving journey alone. No matter how dedicated you are, at some point you will need help in caregiving. Having support in caregiving is key and can be easier with a supportive care team that includes your physician, pharmacist, geriatric care manager, home care aide, and home care management software, eCaring. We’re here to be your eyes and ears in the home — 24 hours a day, 7 days a week—to bring your peace of mind that you loved one with Alzheimer’s Disease is comfortable, safe, and living a life of dignity.