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.”
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.
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:
- Forgetfulness and memory loss
- Lack of concentration and confusion
- Losing things
- Difficulty doing familiar tasks
- Language and speaking problems
- Problems with simple math
- Poor judgment
- Personality changes and mood swings
- Changes in grooming and personal hygiene
- 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.
Signs and Symptoms of Dementia
Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily living. Dementia is not a specific disease, it is an overall term used to describe the changes in mental ability that affect daily living/functioning. Alzheimer’s Disease is the cause of 60-80% of all dementia. Vascular dementia is the second most common cause, often after a stroke or severe coronary artery disease.
Symptoms of Dementia
While symptoms may vary, at least 2 of the following must be present to warrant a diagnosis of Dementia:
- Memory loss/problems—short term memory
Forgetting recently learned information. Forgetting important dates or information. Asking the same questions over and over. Relying on family to remind them of things one used to do on their own. Getting lost while driving or out shopping
- Communication and language difficulties
Trouble following or joining a conversation. Stopping in the middle of a conversation, unable to complete a thought. Can’t find the right word. Calling common items by the wrong name (a watch may be called a hand clock)
- Ability to focus and pay attention
Difficulty staying focused on a conversation. Difficulty paying attention to TV or Movies. Having problems following a discussion or conversation. Having problems understanding what is said to them.
Giving things of value away .Making poor decisions. Paying less attention to grooming or clothing selection. Not taking care of things that have always been valued by the individual.
Difficulty reading. Difficulty judging distance or color. Not recognizing their own image when passing a mirror, thinking someone else is in the room.
Diagnosis and Early Intervention
If you have a loved one who is experiencing symptoms of dementia, it is critical to get a diagnosis and begin early intervention. There are a lot of new medications which can slow the progress of some forms of dementia. This allows other non medical interventions to be more effective and it also enables one to plan and indentify individuals’ desires and needs for long term care.
For Information concerning our assisted living communities, visit GreatOaksManagement.com.
For more information on Alzheimer’s, visit ALZ.org.