Caregiver Spotlight: Alzheimer's Disease - Part Two
Issues surrounding caregiving are important to us at MedFlight911 in part because many of the patients who use our air ambulance service require some form of convalescent care or end-of-life care. And, this is a critically important health concern that we should all be aware of: Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States and the 5th leading cause of death for those aged 65 and older.
Earlier this week we wrote about what Alzheimer’s disease is and five warning signs of the disease. Today I’d like to focus on the other five symptoms of the disease and outline the resources offered by the Alzheimer’s Association.
Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia – which is a general term for the loss of memory, intellectual and reasoning abilities. People with Alzheimer's disease often joke that they “can't remember.” But that underscores a common misunderstanding of the disease. In reality, Alzheimer's does not only affect memory; it affects the brain as a whole. If your brain can be visualized as a house, Alzheimer's disease slowly closes off rooms.
More Alzheimer’s Warning Signs
New problems with words in speaking or writing – People with Alzheimer’s disease may have trouble following or joining a conversation. They may struggle with vocabulary, often talking "around a word" – for example, calling the television “the radio with pictures.” Over time, the ability to read and write also declines.
What’s a typical age-related change? It is normal to sometimes have difficulty finding the right word.
Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps – People with Alzheimer’s disease may put things in unusual places. They may lose things and be unable to go back over their steps to find them again. They may accuse others of stealing.
What’s a typical age-related change? It is common to misplace the car keys occasionally.
Decreased or poor judgment – People with Alzheimer’s may use poor judgment when dealing with money. They may gift large amounts to telemarketers or charities thinking they are paying bills. They may also pay for the same service multiple times. We’ve heard stories of people with Alzheimer’s disease cancelling life insurance policies due to confusion.
What’s a typical age-related change? It is normal to make a poor financial decision once in a while. It is not normal to pay the same company three times to remove one tree in your yard.
Withdrawal from work or social activities – Individuals with Alzheimer’s disease often experience a lack of motivation to join activities formerly enjoyed. They may stop going to social activities or sporting events.
What’s a typical age-related change? It is normal to sometimes feel tired of work, family or social obligations.
Changes in mood and personality – Changes in personality and mood can be the most challenging and upsetting symptom for caregivers. People with Alzheimer’s disease can be confused, agitated, depressed or fearful. They often accuse their loved ones of theft or infidelity. Language changes, including an increase in profanity, are common. Sleeping habits change – individuals either sleep significantly more or far less.
What a typical age-related change? It is normal to have a specific routine and to become irritated about change.
Alzheimer's disease affects every individual differently. Not everyone will experience all of these symptoms, or experience them in the same way. If you see any of these warning signs in yourself or a loved one, please contact the Alzheimer's Association. They offer education, resources and caregiver support in every state in the U.S. Specific services at the state level include:
- Information and referral
- Care consultation
- Support groups for caregivers and individuals with dementia
- Safety services
- Free educational programs
To find your local office, click here or call 1-800-272-3900.