Think of your family or circle of friends for a minute.
Chances are you know someone, perhaps more than a few people, who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, the most common form of dementia and one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. each year.
President Ronald Reagan declared November as Alzheimer’s Awareness Month almost 40 years ago. Since that time, the number of those afflicted has grown from two million to more than five million people today.
There is no cure for Alzheimer’s, but scientific research is advancing. There is ongoing testing for potential links between certain illnesses and the risks of developing Alzheimer’s, and drugs that could be effective at slowing the progression.
According to SeniorLiving.org, some of the disease’s symptoms include:
- Forgetfulness – You might notice them asking the same questions or for information that’s been told to them many times. Can they follow simple directions or a short recipe?
- Confusion – Alzheimer’s victims easily lose track of time. Are they unsure of where they are going or how they arrived somewhere
- Mood shifts – When person’s mind is changing, so does their personality. Do they seem more suspicious or depressed?
“With some regard, we are already seeing younger people coming in to our facilities with advanced dementia in their 60s and 70s, and that is pretty alarming,” says Kris Kiefer, vice-president of Castle Senior Living. “Many older Americans are staying in their apartments and houses much longer, isolating themselves and not engaging. They are struggling in a sense to make their daily lives worthwhile.”
You can help someone with Alzheimer’s in the early stages of the disease by reassuring them, guiding them through a regular routine, and asking them to follow simple tasks. But with more advanced cases, moving to a qualified facility is the next step.
“It’s important for families and caregivers to get together and be the advocate, because there is a better quality of life for their loved one,” says Kiefer. “Assisted living and memory care programs are helpful. We’ve seen some tremendous improvements in residents’ overall health when they first move here. I’ve had families come up to me and thank us for making the difference.
“People are becoming more open about moving mom or dad into an assisted living community. Today’s facilities, offering the amenities of home and trained, certified staff, are coming into play and creating a caring, nurturing environment.”
If someone you know is exhibiting signs of memory loss, here’s more information about a confidential test offered by the National Memory Screening Program.