As you or your elderly relative becomes older, they may experience some indications that could be early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. The sooner that you notice these signs,the better help that you can provide help for your aging parents. Alzheimer’s has several levels of severity,however we will be focusing on the actions indicating the disease in general.
Severe memory loss preventing daily living can be one sign that is tricky to distinguish, because some people simply have a poor memory. If the memory loss disrupts the elder’s daily life or general problem solving abilities it may be helpful to investigate further. If the elder is regularly confused for activities that were once routine or elementary, this may be an indication of the disease.
The confusion may be demonstrated in conversation or if the elder misplaces objects frequently. A social withdrawal or change in mood or personality may also be due to other circumstances, so you may be able to notice more than one symptom. If you or the volunteer for the elder notices that he or she has become fearful, depressed or worried frequently or disassociate with normal activities, it may be the result of something else. It is important to focus on several signs and understand that while it is important to know early, it may be easily misunderstood for something else.
In an earlier post, (Early Stages of Alzheimer’s: Helping Elderly Parents through Understanding) we presented the signs of early stages of Alzheimer’s disease in the elderly and how taking immediate action can help the elder and the family in the long-term. We are optimists at Elder Helpers and believe that with adaptation and care from the family, people can still live happy and fulfilling lives when diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. We will present strategies for you, the caregiver, to help the elder achieve this and enable your non-medical care to be the most rewarding and effective as possible.
We have broken down the care for Alzheimer’s into three categories: prevention, protection and support:
Kick the smoking
It has been shown that smokers or alcohol drinkers have a mental decline faster than people who do not engage in the same activities. Avoiding smoking and drinking can also help prevent other aging diseases.
Eat Healthy & Exercise
High blood pressure has been linked with reduced brain function. Eating healthy and exercising can also help to prevent or alleviate diabetes, another serious aging disease.
Stay Mentally Active
Many believe that by exercising the mind by practicing math or learning a new foreign language can strengthen it by giving the brain cells generated during the day a reason to ‘stick around’.
With protection, we mean keeping the elderly and caregiver in a safe environment by taking simple steps that anyone can follow to enable the elder to stay safe and independent. Later stages of Alzheimer’s can especially dangerous for both the seniors and the caregiver, during this phase you are advised to seek medical attention.
Try to keep their routine simple and easy to understand. You can try creating a spreadsheet of activities with dates and times, posting it on the refrigerator to help them remember.
Keep Your Message Simple
Try repeating the key points several times if necessary or using non-verbal communication to convey your message. You may also write down the message and give to the elder, or touch their hand when speaking with them if you have a close relationship. These strategies may help them to remember the message that you are sending them.
Know the ‘Quirks’
Target the behavior changes or actions that the elder may have and find preventative measures to take and help keep them safe. Some elders may consistently misplace their keys, adopt strange eating habits or other abnormal behavior. When you understand them, you can take measures to reduce the consequences and help them to live a productive life.
Experiencing Alzheimer’s disease is not easy for the elder, the family or their caregiver. It is important for not only the elder to know that they have support, but also those affected by the aging disease to understand that there are resources available.
Dementia Treatment Guide : A free, downloadable PDF from the University of California Davis with more information on dementia for elders and their caregivers.
Alzheimer’s Support Forum: : A free forum to connect with other families or Alzheimer’s patients or gain support or first hand knowledge about the experiences of the aging disease.
Elder Helpers: A non-profit program that connects elders with volunteer caregivers in their community.