Alzheimer’s disease causes progressive neurological changes. It is the most common cause of dementia — a group of brain disorders that cause a loss of intellectual and social skills, severe enough to interfere with day-to-day life. With Alzheimer’s, plaques and tangles develop in the brain and there is a loss of connections between nerve cells, causing a steady decline in memory and mental function.
Current Alzheimer’s disease medications and management strategies can temporarily improve symptoms, maximize function and maintain independence. Research efforts aim to discover treatments that prevent Alzheimer’s or slow its progression.
The first symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease you may notice are increasing forgetfulness and mild confusion. Over time, the disease has a growing impact on your memory, your ability to speak and write coherently, and your judgment and problem solving. If you have Alzheimer’s, you may be the first to notice that you’re having unusual difficulty remembering things and organizing your thoughts. Or you may not recognize that anything is wrong, even when changes are noticeable to your family members, close friends or co-workers.
Brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease lead to growing trouble with:
Everyone has occasional memory lapses. It’s normal to lose track of where you put your keys or forget the name of an acquaintance. But the memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease persists and gets worse. People with Alzheimer’s may:
. Repeat statements and questions over and over
. Forget conversations, appointments or events, and not remember them later
. Routinely misplace possessions, often putting them in illogical locations
. Eventually forget the names of family members and everyday objects
. Disorientation and misinterpreting spatial relationships
People with Alzheimer’s disease may lose their sense of what day it is, the time of year, where they are or even their current life circumstances. Alzheimer’s may also disrupt your brain’s ability to interpret what you see, making it difficult to understand your surroundings. Eventually, these problems may lead to getting lost in familiar places.
Speaking and writing
People with Alzheimer’s may have trouble finding the right words to identify objects, express thoughts or take part in conversations. Over time, the ability to read and write also declines.
Thinking and reasoning
Alzheimer’s disease causes difficulty concentrating and thinking, especially about abstract concepts like numbers. Many people find it challenging to manage their finances, balance their checkbooks, and keep track of bills and pay them on time. These difficulties may progress to inability to recognize and deal with numbers.
Making judgments and decisions
Responding effectively to everyday problems, such as food burning on the stove or unexpected driving situations, becomes increasingly challenging.
Planning and performing familiar tasks
Once-routine activities that require sequential steps, such as planning and cooking a meal or playing a favorite game, become a struggle as the disease progresses. Eventually, people with advanced Alzheimer’s may forget how to perform basic tasks such as dressing and bathing.
Changes in personality and behavior
Brain changes that occur in Alzheimer’s disease can affect the way you act and how you feel. People with Alzheimer’s may experience:
• Social withdrawal
• Mood swings
• Distrust in others
• Increased stubbornness
• Irritability and aggressiveness
• Changes in sleeping habits
People with Alzheimer’s disease experience a mixture of emotions — confusion, frustration, anger, fear, uncertainty, grief and depression. You can help a person cope with the disease by being there to listen, reassuring the person that life can still be enjoyed, providing support, and doing your best to help the person retain dignity and self-respect. A calm and stable home environment can help reduce behavior problems. New situations, noise, large groups of people, being rushed or pressed to remember, or being asked to do complicated tasks can cause anxiety. As a person with Alzheimer’s becomes upset, the ability to think clearly declines even more.
Caring for the caregiver
Caring for a person with Alzheimer’s disease is physically and emotionally demanding. Feelings of anger and guilt, frustration and discouragement, worry and grief, and social isolation are common. But paying attention to your own needs and well-
being is one of the most important things you can do for yourself and for the person with Alzheimer’s. If you’re a caregiver/family member for someone with Alzheimer’s, you can help yourself by:
• Learning as much about the disease as you can
• Asking questions of doctors, social workers and others involved in the care of your loved one
• Calling on friends or other family members for help when you need it
• Taking a break every day
• Spending time with your friends
• Taking care of your health by seeing your own doctors on schedule, eating healthy meals and getting exercise
McKenney Home Care
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