June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month. For families who have recently been told an older relative has Alzheimer’s disease, there can be a lot of questions. It is a complicated disease that doesn’t progress along a clear-cut path. Instead, it can be different for everyone. One way to begin to cope with the diagnosis is to learn more about the disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is the number one cause of dementia, accounting for up to 80 percent of dementia cases. It damages and kills brain cells, causing problems with memory and thinking. Initially, the disease may only cause slight confusion and “forgetfulness.” However, as it progresses, the disease profoundly impacts the sufferer. They often forget even the people they are closest to and experience major changes in personality. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s but there are treatments that can improve symptoms for a while.
The disease is named after the doctor who first discovered it, Dr. Alois Alzheimer. Dr. Alzheimer first noticed the disease in 1906 when he examined the brain of a woman who had died from a mental illness that caused memory loss, changes in behavior, and difficulty with language. In her brain he found strange clumps and tangles that are now identified as amyloid plaques and tau tangles. These plaques and tangles are recognized as the hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s is generally recognized as progressing stages. Some organizations break the disease down into three stages while others use seven. The three-stage model defines the stages as:
- Mild: Initially, an individual with Alzheimer’s may only be a bit confused and forget things from time to time. As the disease worsens, memory loss becomes more obvious and affects daily living more. They may have difficulty with wandering and getting lost, take longer to do things, and have problems with things like managing finances.
- Moderate: Memory loss and confusion continue to get worse. The person may have trouble recognizing people they know well. They may have difficulty doing tasks that require multiple steps, such as getting dressed. Behavior becomes more erratic. The older adult may also have hallucinations and delusions.
- Severe: In this stage, the plaques and tangles take over more of the brain. The individual is unable to communicate and needs constant care.
When an aging family member is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease it is important to start talking about care options early while your loved one is still able to express their wishes. One option that can allow the person to live independently for longer is senior care. Senior care agencies can work with the family’s schedule to ensure the older adult has the help they need when there is a gap in the caregiving schedule. As the disease worsens, families can increase the amount of time senior care spends in the home.
IF YOU OR AN AGING SENIOR ARE CONSIDERING HOME HEALTH CARE SERVICES IN EAGLE, ID, PLEASE CONTACT THE CARING STAFF AT HOME HELPERS HOME CARE OF BOISE. CALL US: (208) 322-2668.
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