Caring For a Loved One With Alzheimers
Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia that will afflict numerous senior citizens every year, and although there is no proper cure or pill for it, there are many ways to support an Alzheimer’s patient and make their life easier, despite their gradual loss of memory. Even with memory loss over the years, someone with Alzheimer’s can get love and support from family and from staff at nursing homes. Care at the patient’s personal residence or nursing homes are both possible routes to take.
The Demographics of Alzheimer’s and Dementia
Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are more common to senior citizens, and sometimes the rates can be high. It is believed that among the nursing home population, 64% of residents aged 65 or older have Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia, and overall, among the American population, one in eight citizens over he age 65 may have this condition. And worldwide, there are an estimated 35.6 million people living with dementia in one form or another. However, research into combating this condition is ongoing, and in 2011, the American federal government allotted $450 million into research for Alzheimer’s. With proper memory assistance and other forms of support, these many patients can lead a relatively normal and comfortable life.
Diagnosis and Treatment
There are ways to have a potential Alzheimer’s patient tested for this condition, according to Mayo Clinic, and many ways to cope with it if a diagnosis is confirmed. At the doctor’s office, a physical exam is undertaken, and neurological health is tested in areas such as reflexes, strength and tone of muscle, sight and hearing power, balance, coordination, and capacity to get up and walk away from a chair. What is more, blood tests can rule out other causes of memory loss such as vitamin deficiencies and thyroid disorders. Thinking and memory skills are tested, and an MRI scan may be done to rule out other memory loss causes such as tumors or past trauma.
If a diagnosis is confirmed, many steps can be taken to create a livable lifestyle for the patient. Routine and familiarity are often key: at the patient’s residence, placing items such as keys, wallets, and a purse in the same place consistently can help, as can visits being done at the same time of day each time. Sturdy handrails along the stairways and in the bathroom can help for mitigating motor coordination loss, and furniture can be arranged to help as well. Trip hazards such as cords, rugs, and other items should be removed or replaced, and footwear should be snug and have good traction. Having items of personal meaning such as photographs around the house can also ease the patient’s mind.
Good health habits can make life better for an Alzheimers patient. Regular exercise of an appropriate intensity can help prevent constipation as well as ensure a good night’s rest, and stationary bikes are one route that can be taken. Heart and joint health are also maintained this way, though if the patient takes walks, he or she should carry identification or a medical alert bracelet for emergencies. And sometimes, Alzheimer’s patients may neglect their dietary health, so providing them with healthy and nutritious shakes and smoothies (they can even have protein powder added) as well as juices and plain water to prevent dehydration. Caffeine, however, is discouraged. Finally, maintaining the patient’s social life can boost mood and help mitigate some of the mental and memory loss effects of Alzheimer’s.