The Family Disease Known as Alzheimer’s

Life changes when a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The disease is devastating and your plans for the future turn bleak. You begin to focus on quality instead of quantity of life.

The Statistics

The disease has a profound impact on society. Statistics list Alzheimer’s Disease as the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. There are approximately 5 million people diagnosed in the U.S. alone. It is probable that everyone will be affected in some manner by Alzheimer’s in their lifetime.

The Basics

Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease. It may be nearly invisible in the early stage. Your loved one appears normal. You may recognize some increased forgetfulness that is easily overlooked or explained away as an inevitable part of aging.

As the disease progresses to the mild stage cognitive impairment becomes more evident. It may be difficult for the affected person to handle finances. They may become easily lost and wandering may become an issue. Short-term memory is increasingly impaired and the person may ask the same question repeatedly.

People in the moderate stage of the disease experience increased confusion. They may not be able to learn new tasks and forget how to perform simple activities of daily living such as dressing. They may not be able to recognize friends or family members.

In the end stage plaque and tangles spread throughout the brain. The person loses the ability to communicate and becomes totally dependent on others for their daily care. There is no recovery.

Care Giving

Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s Disease is a physical and emotionally exhausting experience. A recent study concluded that 35 percent of Alzheimer caregivers reported a noted decline in their own health as compared to 19 percent of caregivers for patients with non-dementia related conditions.

It is imperative to care for yourself while caring for your loved one. Share the responsibility with family and friends. Take time to see a movie or have coffee with friends. Do not feel guilty for feeling annoyed at times. Answering the same question 50 times in an hour would challenge a saint.

Do not be a hero. It is okay to ask for help. Choosing to move your loved one to a care facility is not a failure. It is an act of love. Alzheimer’s is a complicated disease. Share your feelings with family or consider joining a support group. Treasure your memories.