Alzheimer’s disease, or AD, is a disease that degenerates the nervous system and slowly destroys one’s ability to think, reason, and remember. People with Alzheimer’s slowly lose their ability to communicate and to perform simple daily tasks. Decision making becomes difficult or impossible. Sometimes their personality or behavior may experience adverse changes. They tend to experience a higher frequency of anxiety and dementia. Those who take care of their loved ones with AD face many challenges. If you are in this situation, read the following suggestions that can help you reduce stress and make the situation easier to deal with.
The more you understand about the nature and progression of AD, the more able you are in dealing with the challenges because you will know what to expect. Do some research at your local library or through online resources on the topic. Your community may also have organizations that provide free information and education on AD. The development of Alzheimer’s disease has seven stages, each characterized by common symptoms. By the time the patient receives a definitive diagnosis of AD, it is most likely that the disease has already reached stage four. It will help you to figure out what stage your loved one is at so you can anticipate the symptoms that will surface.
A diagnosis is made by a medical professional with expertise in AD, such as a neurologist, psychiatrist, or a primary care physician. Methods commonly used in making the diagnosis include the administration of a MMSE, or Mini Mental State Exam. To rule out that that patient did not suffer a stroke caused by dementia, a CAT or PET scan may also be conducted. Both a stroke caused by dementia and AD result in a loss of mental capacity, but the mental decline in an AD patient is steady, whereas the mental decline in someone suffering from a stroke has more defined steps.
Currently, AD has no cure. However, there are treatments can slow down its progression. This prolongs the patient’s ability to hang on to his cognitive ability. Medications include Aricept, Razadyne, and Exelon, which are cholinesterase inhibitors. These drugs can be used at the early stages of AD all the way to the late stages. A glutamate reducer called Namenda can also be used in conjunction with cholinesterase inhibitors during early to late stages of AD.
When your loved one has been diagnosed with AD, you should start making preparations for what is ahead. This will be an emotionally and financially demanding time for you, so you need to get ready for that. There will come a time when your loved one will need help with basic hygiene and with using the bathroom. Mealtimes should be adjusted to accommodate what he needs. When he exhibits mobility problems, a wheelchair should be purchased.
Turn your home into a safe environment. Install child safety locks on medicine cabinets and areas that may pose a danger. Electrical appliances should have automatic shut-off capabilities. Grab-bars should be installed in the bathroom. Doors leading to the outside should have secure locks in place to prevent the patient from accidentally wandering off.
Your loved one will eventually lose his basic ability to perform ordinary tasks. Sleeping patterns will change, which may affect your rest at night. The patient may hallucinate and see you as a stranger or someone hostile. Just remember that you are there to help your loved one live through this disease and not helping a disease. Under any circumstances, treat him with the same respect that you would expect for yourself.
Spend as much time as you can with your loved one reliving those happy and treasured moments in your lives. Even though the patient’s cognitive abilities are declining, you can nourish and make the most of what is left by talking about those precious memories. Even when your loved one cannot recognize you or his best friends anymore, he still has emotions and will enjoy the kindness and love that you will continue to provide. Show him love, create happy moments and make him laugh. That is the best therapy of all.