Two words so simple yet so poignant. In everyday life too they have sweet connotations of longing and desire to be recalled, be part of someone’s memory, some past sweet or sour incident which formed a bond for times to come. Same two words asked as a question gain vital significance with the dreaded answer from an Alzheimer’s afflicted loved one. We see ourselves slipping away from their memories and their lives. The excruciating pain of it all can’t be expressed in words as the loss are those memories which have been built up over a life time of living, a life full of care, love, learning, work. But now a struggle to remember name of the child who was the reason for living. This is what everyday life is for an Alzheimer’s patient and their loved ones lives everyday are about. Forgetting and trying to remember.
Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia among older people. Dementia itself is not a disease. It’s a group of symptoms that are caused by various diseases or conditions. In Alzheimer’s mental decline shows up first as loss of memory, then emotions and inhibitions. Brain lesions accumulate causing brain cells to die.
Every 5 years after 65, our risk for Alzheimer’s doubles. People with Down’s syndrome and genetic history are at higher risk. So is having a risk factor gene called ApoE. Also the high insulin levels seen in the obese and diabetic may too heighten their risks.
Reading, playing board games, learning to play new musical instruments, learning new languages and dancing are associated with reduced risk.
Everyone has memory problems as they get older but main problem that indicates the disease is trouble planning and handling day-to-day tasks. Like paying bills, managing appliances around the house etc. Language, Coordination, Depression, Mood swings etc. are early signs of mild Alzheimer’s which lasts from 2-4 yrs. Then moderate Alzheimer’s, when memory gets worse and they forget life events, have trouble sleeping, Wandering, Delusions etc. happen. This lasts from 2-10 years. Next is severe Alzheimer’s when Problem with swallowing and Controlling bowel movements, Expression, Hallucinations, Confusions in past and present, Weight loss, Infections etc. happen.
Diagnosis and Test
To get full benefit of treatment early diagnosis is vital. Alzheimer’s isn’t part of normal aging. If you think your loved one might be showing symptom then it’s important to check diagnosis. Warning signs are Memory loss, Behaviour change or Trouble with speech and decision-making. Accurate diagnosis can give loved one time to plan for future. Also some medicines that can help control symptoms. Diagnosis is through Health history, Mini mental state exam, CT scan, MRI and Neuropsychological testing.
Treatment and Care
Today there is no cure for Alzheimer’s. But a lot can be done. The condition can be stabilised for longer periods with proper care and in conducive environment in like company. So treatment and care go hand in hand. People with Alzheimer’s disease can get anxious or upset easily. They might be restless, unable to sleep, or pace back and forth. A few things to try to reduce these are – To create a calm place for her. Cut out background noise from the TV or radio, clear away clutter, and make her daily tasks as simple as possible. Check for physical reasons she might be agitated, like hunger, thirst, needing to use the bathroom, or being too hot or cold. Exercise can ease anxiety and stress. Take her for a walk, do some gardening, or put on her favorite music and dance. Use low lighting or night-lights to help her feel less confused and afraid at night. Keep your emotions in check. You may feel frustrated, but try to keep your voice calm and steady and avoid arguing or criticizing her.
Living and Managing
Living with Alzheimer’s means caring for patient and caring for caregiver too. We should know what to expect. Be prepared for the inevitable. Take time for ourselves , learn about the disease and don’t do everything for the patient. That’s part of helping them. Don’t put our life on hold, Most importantly have someone to talk to.
*Alzheimer’s Info resourced from internet sites like WebMD.com