One of the most detrimental disorders of today's world is Alzheimer's Disease. Many people have heard of it, but they don't know what to do when it rears its ugly head. It can be really frustrating for the person with the disease, and it can be really upsetting to watch the person you love deal with it. But what is Alzheimer's Disease? Why does it affect some people and it doesn't affect other people? What does it do to the mind? How can we help our loved ones and our families to get through what is going on with our loved one's diagnosis? We're going to answer those questions here today.
What is Alzheimer's Disease?
Alzheimer's Disease is a disease that affects the mind. Even though memory loss is incredibly common in older adults, Alzheimer's takes it to the next level and makes it very difficult for older adults to function. The reason that this happens is because Alzheimer's Disease actually kills the brain cells of the person that is suffering from the disease. As the brain starts to lose cells, it becomes that much harder for the person to function in a healthy manner. Thinking becomes more difficult and it goes much more slowly than it did before. There are a number of symptoms that are associated with Alzheimer's disease, including the following:
- An inability to retain and process new information.
- An inability to figure out complex problems.
- An inability to make correct decisions.
- Forgetting current events, but remembering events that happened to them early on.
- Stuttering, stammering, or hesitating in speech and writing.
- Many errors in both speech and writing.
- Major mood swings that you cannot predict in any way, shape, or form.
- Inability to have empathy, sympathy, or other feelings for those around you.
- Major, permanent personality changes that are unexpected.
- Forgetting something that they have always known, like how to get somewhere, where to go at a certain point in time, an appointment that they have regularly, or other things that may come up.
Granted, some of these things may just be part of aging, but other parts of them definitely point to issues with Alzheimer's, especially if they are happening more severely than may be expected for your loved one to be dealing with. All of these different symptoms may vary, and some people will deal with some of them but not even take a second glance at some of the others. You will want to consult with a doctor or another medical professional in order to get the testing done for Alzheimer's Disease so that you can know for sure, but these symptoms may be able to tip you off somewhat.
What Do I Do if my Loved One Has Alzheimer's?
Alzheimer's disease can be incredibly frustrating for everyone, and so there are a lot of things that you can do in order to help them and yourself to get through this potentially difficult time in your life. Here are some suggestions that you can follow to get through.
If you're a caretaker, you need to make sure and take time out for yourself. This can be really difficult to do, especially if you are worried about whether or not your loved one is going to survive for a few more days. It can be hard to watch your loved one deteriorate with their mental health, so you have to take care of your own mental health in the process. Eat right, continue to exercise on a regular basis, and make sure that your self care is the best that it has ever been in your entire life. Take a time out when you need to, or you will end up being more stressed out. Take time for your hobbies, have fun with your loved one, and try to enjoy life as best as you can. This time of life can be incredibly sad, but you have to make sure that you are taken care of as well as them - you won't be able to care for them properly if you aren't taking care of yourself well.
Develop a support network that can help you with anything that you may need help with. There are people who love you and your family, and they will want to help you out. Don't shut them out now - if you need help (and you will, trust me), you need to make sure that you reach out for it on a regular basis. You will get what you need from the loving community around you if you ask. They don't even need to come and take care of your loved one, even though they can (which we talk about a bit in the next section), but they can also help with other needs, like meals, transportation, connections, and even putting together events that will help your family with the costs of the care that your loved one needs in this time.
Consider investing in a home caregiver that can help your loved one when you can't necessarily be there. It's not a bad thing to need extra help, and many times, you can find a home caregiver that is covered by insurance of some sort. Do your research and find a good one, and then they can come in and help you out so that you can continue with your job and other things without having to worry about your loved one being alone. You can also replace this with someone in your family that can care for them during work and other things that you have to do. It just depends on what you need and who is helping your family out.
Be patient above everything else. Alzheimer's can be a really frustrating disease, and it can be hard for you to deal with the constant forgetting and other problems that are happening with your loved one. But you have to be patient with them - if you get frustrated, it's going to make them upset and it's going to make it a lot harder for you to communicate with them in a healthy way. If you feel your patience sliding, take a time out and step away for a bit - it can help you to calm down and start all over again with what is going on. This is why it's important for you to get through the process as best as you can.
Make sure that you value to the time that you have with your loved ones before they go. Don't go through this time of life begrudgingly. Whether your loved one has Alzheimer's Disease, terminal cancer, or another type of chronic, terminal disease, you need to cherish your time with them for as long as you have them. Remember the good times and make good memories even though there is a lot of pain going on at the same time.
If you have a loved one with Alzheimer's and you aren't sure what to do for and with them, there are plenty of therapists out there that can help you to figure out what you can do. They can also help you to work out the feelings that you are struggling with as a result of your loved one's diagnosis. Use our resources to find a therapist in your area today and get the help you need.
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The Fisher Center for Alzheimer's Research Foundation. (2007). A Loved One Has Been Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease: Now What? Retrieved August 7, 2014, from http://www.alzinfo.org/01/pym/ask-the-experts/loved-diagnosed-alzheimers-disease-what
Gerhold, J. (2014, August 4). “I Think my Dad has Alzheimer’s. I Don’t Know What to Do.”. Retrieved August 7, 2014, from http://www.dementiatoday.com/i-think-my-dad-has-alzheimers-i-dont-know-what-to-do/
Heerema, E. (2014, June 18). What to Do if a Loved One May Have Alzheimer's. Retrieved August 7, 2014, from http://alzheimers.about.com/od/diagnosisofalzheimers/a/What-to-Do-if-Youre-Worried-that-Your-Loved-One-Has-Alzheimers.htm
Ratini, M. (2014, March 7). Early Signs of Alzheimer's/Dementia: When to Call a Doctor. Retrieved August 7, 2014, from http://www.webmd.com/alzheimers/early-warning-signs-when-to-call-the-doctor-about-alzheimers?page=2