Your mother has just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or you suspect your father might have it. Now what, you may be wondering? What can you do? What should you expect?
In this blog, we give you an overview of Alzheimer’s, including symptoms, treatments, management, and further medical care, so you can feel more prepared for what’s to come.
What Is Alzheimer’s?
First you need to understand what, exactly, Alzheimer’s disease is. If you know one thing, you probably know the condition affects a person’s memory. At first, Alzheimer’s may only impact the person’s recent memory and he or she may still have an easy time remembering events from long ago.
Alzheimer’s is typically related to aging, though not every senior citizen has it. Scientists have narrowed down the source of the symptoms to two main types of nerve damage. Either nerve cells get tangled in what are called neurofibrillary tangles, or there’s a buildup of protein deposits in the brain. It’s still unclear what, exactly, causes these nerve damages, though age and genetics can contribute to the degeneration.
What Are the Symptoms of Alzheimer’s?
There are three main stages of Alzheimer’s, and they can be categorized as mild, moderate, and severe. Over time your father or mother may transition from mild Alzheimer’s to moderate or from moderate to severe. The symptoms change as this happens, so you and your parent’s doctor will be able to determine when the transition happens.
If your parent has mild Alzheimer’s, he or she may have trouble remembering conversations you just had with them. You may find your parent has trouble with driving, especially with getting lost on familiar routes. He or she may have less energy and interest in doing social activities, instead spending the day sleeping or watching television.
Moderate Alzheimer’s symptoms include worsening memory. This point is when you may find your parent no longer remembers his or her wedding date or even recognizes friends and family members. He or she may be confused when it comes to times and places, such as not remembering how he or she ended up in a specific place. Your parent may uncharacteristically get angry with you or a caregiver or even have delusions that a caregiver is trying to hurt him or her.
Once your parent progresses to severe Alzheimer’s, you start to see major confusion from him or her. Your parent may no longer be able to express themselves or move around easily without help. You may see weight loss, skin infections, and even seizures, and your parent may no longer have control over his or her bladder.
How Can Alzheimer’s Be Treated?
While Alzheimer’s cannot be cured, there are several ways in which the symptoms can be treated, making life easier for both your parent and yourself.
Numerous medications can help with memory loss, anxiety or mood, and confusion. Some scientific research has also shown that art and music therapies can help stimulate the senses and improve behavior as well as mood. Sometimes art and music can also trigger memories.
When Is It Time for Memory Care?
Eventually, caring for your parent with Alzheimer’s may become too big a job for you and your family. Fortunately there are assisted living facilities designed specifically for seniors with Alzheimer’s and other memory-related diseases. These facilities, known as memory care centers, are designed to not only keep your parent safe and comfortable but also to help them manage their disease they best way possible.
So how do you know when it’s time for memory care? There are many factors that may play into this, both in your health and lifestyle or your parent’s.
Alzheimer’s can seem intimidating, but understanding what your parent is experiencing and what you can expect can help you make the right decisions about his or her care and future.