Shine a Purple Light

I will admit that until I began working in the senior living sector, I knew very little about Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia.  It was not something I had seen on a personal or family level.  That has changed.  Now I know and care for people affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia.  I understand that they are not all one in the same.  There are even different types of dementia.  I have come to know some of the devastating effects they take on lives.  Since June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, I thought I could help do my part by shining a purple light.

Did you know that according to the Alzheimer’s Association:

  • Alzheimer’s is fatal. It kills more than breast and prostate cancer combined.
  • Alzheimer’s is not normal aging. It’s a progressive brain disease without any cure.
  • Alzheimer’s is more than memory loss. It appears through a variety of signs and symptoms.

Per the website alz.org, “A number of studies indicate that maintaining strong social connections and keeping mentally active as we age might lower the risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s. Experts are not certain about the reason for this association. It may be due to direct mechanisms through which social and mental stimulation strengthen connections between nerve cells in the brain.”

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During the month of June, the Alzheimer’s Association asks you to learn more about Alzheimer’s. Share your story and take action.  It may be as simple as bringing awareness via social media.  Alzheimer’s disease awareness is represented by the color purple, and in June, thousands of Americans will turn their Facebook profile purple with an “END ALZ” icon.  If you need help or more information on ways you can raise awareness of the truth about Alzheimer’s, visit alz.org/abam to get started.

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Mom Is Forgetting Things, Could She Have Dementia?

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Everyone is forgetful from time to time especially when it comes to things like remembering where we put the car keys or forgetting to pick up something at the grocery store.  Adults over 65 say they are more forgetful than when they were younger, sometimes having a “senior moment” when they forget something.

Occasional forgetfulness is different than dementia and as our parents age, sometimes we wonderful is the forgetfulness we see is a part of the natural aging process or the beginning of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.  As the child of a senior adult, how will I know the difference?

Research has shown that the early warning signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease may begin to occur years before our parents get the diagnosis, sometimes as much as 10-15 years before the diagnosis.  That’s why it is important to pay attention to early signs of forgetfulness and consider a trip to the physician for a medical work up if we are concerned about the possibility that our parents may be developing dementia.  Forgetting a friends name or missing a lunch date is something that people without dementia do from time to time. Someone with early dementia, though, might repeatedly forget names or plans, and forget all about the incident soon afterward. It may seem strange but while someone with early dementia may forget something that happened the previous evening, they may recall in detail events that happened in the more distant past, last year, say, or during their childhood.

The Alzheimer’s Association has published a list of 10 warning signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.  They are:

  1. Forgetfulness and memory loss
  2. Lack of concentration and confusion
  3. Losing things
  4. Difficulty doing familiar tasks
  5. Language and speaking problems
  6. Problems with simple math
  7. Poor judgment
  8. Personality changes and mood swings
  9. Changes in grooming and personal hygiene
  10. Withdrawing from friends and family

If you are concerned about your parent, make an appointment to see their primary care physician.  There are medications available which slow the progression of some forms of dementia, but they work better if they start early in the disease.

What Do These Famous Individuals All Have In Common?

What do Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Glen Campbell, Pat Summit, and Perry Como have in common?  Your first response might be that they are all famous, successful individuals.  You would be right, but the one thing that they all have in common is Alzheimer’s disease.  November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month and now is a good time to learn more about the disease and what to do if you are concerned that a loved one may have memory problems.

Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disease that affects memory, language, thought and eventually, the ability to complete basic activities of daily living.  Scientist think as many as 4.5 million American’s have Alzheimer’s disease and the numbers go up beginning at age 60.  Scientist estimates that 50% of Americans age 85 and older have the disease.  One important point is that Alzheimer’s is not a part of normal aging.

If you have a loved one who is experiencing memory loss, make an appointment to see your primary care provider as soon as possible.  There are medications available today which help slow down the progression of the disease if they are started early in the disease process.  Delaying getting a diagnosis reduces the ability to slow the disease earlier in the process.

If you have a loved one who has been given a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, get as much information as you can and look for a support group in your area.  Explore programs in your area for individuals with memory loss and begin to look at senior living options for when living at home is no longer possible.  Don’t forget to take care of yourself.  Care giving for an individual with memory problems is challenging and many care givers face health challenges of their own.

Alzheimer’s disease affects individuals regardless of their race, sex, social background or financial class.  Getting up to date information will help you find the answers you need.