Managing Alzheimer’s Disease Behavior
Common behavioral symptoms of Alzheimers include sleeplessness, wandering, agitation, anxiety, and aggression. Scientists are learning why these symptoms occur and are studying new treatments drug and nondrug to manage them. Research has shown that treating behavioral symptoms can make people with Alzheimers more comfortable and makes things easier for caregivers.
Find An Experienced Dementia Care Counselorfor Both Of You
One of Johnstons studies found that when caregivers and people with dementia sought treatment for depression, they gained greater access to care, services and support. Caregivers should have someone to talk to regularly, who can provide support, educate them about the illness and coach them on how to cope as it progresses, says Johnston.
Tips For Everyday Care For People With Dementia
Early on in Alzheimers and related dementias, people experience changes in thinking, remembering, and reasoning in a way that affects daily life and activities. Eventually, people with these diseases will need more help with simple, everyday tasks. This may include bathing, grooming, and dressing. It may be upsetting to the person to need help with such personal activities. Here are a few tips to consider early on and as the disease progresses:
- Try to keep a routine, such as bathing, dressing, and eating at the same time each day.
- Help the person write down to-do lists, appointments, and events in a notebook or calendar.
- Plan activities that the person enjoys and try to do them at the same time each day.
- Consider a system or reminders for helping those who must take medications regularly.
- When dressing or bathing, allow the person to do as much as possible.
- Buy loose-fitting, comfortable, easy-to-use clothing, such as clothes with elastic waistbands, fabric fasteners, or large zipper pulls instead of shoelaces, buttons, or buckles.
- Use a sturdy shower chair to support a person who is unsteady and to prevent falls. You can buy shower chairs at drug stores and medical supply stores.
- Be gentle and respectful. Tell the person what you are going to do, step by step while you help them bathe or get dressed.
- Serve meals in a consistent, familiar place and give the person enough time to eat.
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Genetic Testing Not Helpful
When a relative is diagnosed with dementia later in life, family members often wonder if they should be tested for the “Alzheimer’s gene.” The short answer is no. “It can be a quick no or a long no, with more explanation, but the answer is nearly always no,” Dr. Marshall says. “It’s not going to be helpful, since it won’t tell you whether you will develop the disease. It will only tell you if you are at a greater or lower risk.”
For Alzheimer’s disease that begins later in lifethe vast majority of casesa gene called apolipoprotein E is associated with greater risk for dementia. If you inherit one copy of APOE4, your risk triples. If you have two copies, your risk is 10 to 15 times higher .
But having APOE4 does not mean you will definitely develop dementia. Among people who age normally into their 70s, about 25% still have one or more copies of the risk gene. Nor does the absence of APOE4 protect you: about 35% of people with Alzheimer’s don’t have one of the risk genes.
This means that if genetic testing reveals that you have one or more copies of APOE4, it will not tell you what you really want to know: will you definitely get Alzheimer’s diseaseor will you not? Knowing that you have the risk gene could instill fear and negatively influence your life decisions.
How Does Alzheimer’s Disease Affect The Brain
Scientists continue to unravel the complex brain changes involved in Alzheimers disease. Changes in the brain may begin a decade or more before symptoms appear. During this very early stage of Alzheimers, toxic changes are taking place in the brain, including abnormal buildups of proteins that form amyloid plaques and tau tangles. Previously healthy neurons stop functioning, lose connections with other neurons, and die. Many other complex brain changes are thought to play a role in Alzheimers as well.
The damage initially appears to take place in the hippocampus and the entorhinal cortex, which are parts of the brain that are essential in forming memories. As more neurons die, additional parts of the brain are affected and begin to shrink. By the final stage of Alzheimers, damage is widespread and brain tissue has shrunk significantly.
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Can Alzheimer’s Disease Be Prevented
As the exact cause of Alzheimer’s disease is not clear, there’s no known way to prevent the condition.
But there are things you can do that may reduce your risk or delay the onset of dementia, such as:
- staying physically fit and mentally active
These measures have other health benefits, such as lowering your risk of cardiovascular disease and improving your overall mental health.
Read more about preventing Alzheimer’s disease.
Isnt Dementia Part Of Normal Aging
No, many older adults live their entire lives without developing dementia. Normal aging may include weakening muscles and bones, stiffening of arteries and vessels, and some age-related memory changes that may show as:
- Occasionally misplacing car keys
- Struggling to find a word but remembering it later
- Forgetting the name of an acquaintance
- Forgetting the most recent events
Normally, knowledge and experiences built over years, old memories, and language would stay intact.
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Stages Of Alzheimers Disease
An important aspect of Alzheimers disease is that these changes do not appear all at once. Alzheimers is a progressive illness that can last 8 to 20 years, with changes occurring gradually over months and years. Because it is a progressive illness, changes, care issues and management planning, are often considered in terms of the stages of the illness. The most common classification of stages and the one that we will use, is simply using the terms: early, middle, late and end stage.
As we discuss the stages of Alzheimers disease and other forms of dementia, it is important to keep in mind that these are only general categories or phases that serve as guidelines in understanding and planning care. Our brains, our bodies and our personalities are very different and we will all manifest an illness, even a brain disease, differently.
Keeping that in mind, here is a general outline of behaviors and functions in the various stages of Alzheimers disease.
Give Each Other Space
As the disease progresses, rapidly swinging moods and angry, negative outbursts can take a great toll on caregivers, Johnston says. Plus, more than 90 percent of people with dementia develop behavioral symptoms or psychiatric problems at some point during their illness. Its perfectly OK to calmly say, I need to have some privacy, and leave the room to have a moment of peace, to allow both of you to calm down.
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What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Dementia
Because dementia is a general term, its symptoms can vary widely from person to person. People with dementia have problems with:
- Reasoning, judgment, and problem solving
- Visual perception beyond typical age-related changes in vision
Signs that may point to dementia include:
- Getting lost in a familiar neighborhood
- Using unusual words to refer to familiar objects
- Forgetting the name of a close family member or friend
- Forgetting old memories
- Not being able to complete tasks independently
Helping Families Help Their Loved Ones And Themselves
Loved ones with Alzheimers disease or other types of dementia require specialized care and support. Memory loss caused by Alzheimers disease, dementia or another form of memory impairment doesnt only affect the person who has it it affects the entire family. If you have a loved one with early- to mid-stage memory loss, you know how challenging it can be to provide the care thats needed while trying to maintain balance in your life. As care needs increase, you may not be able to meet them physically or emotionally. Its often difficult to be available to care for your loved ones health and well-being around the clock.
Unicity Healthcare specializes in Alzheimers and Dementia Care. In fact, many renowned healthcare providers and Elderly service providers in New Jersey call on our expertise when dealing with people with Alzheimers/Dementia.
Alzheimers being a progressive disease, it is essential care be supervised and adjusted at each level of Alzheimers disease: the early stage, the middle stage and the late stage. Our Senior Advisors make sure to guide you through the appropriate care alternatives during the progression of the disease.
Not only are our Care Managers dementia experts/practitioners, they have significant experience dealing with Alzheimers clients and their families. They know how to act, interact, provide care, engage, and redirect to provide a safe, happy, and failure-free environment.
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Changes In Family Relationships
The effects of Alzheimers disease arent only felt by the immediate family members of an individual, but by extended family and close friends as well. Family members who dont see the loved one regularly might not understand how seriously the disease has impacted them. Some family members may shy away from the loved one and their caregiver because they are unsure of what to say or how to act.
According to the Alzheimers Association, the best thing a caregiver can do to involve their family in their loved ones life is to take the initiative to talk to them, teaching them how the disease has changed their lives, sharing updates on their loved ones health and asking for help when its needed.
Senior Memory Care At Living Branches
At Living Branches retirement communities, we offer compassionate, professional memory care programs for individuals with Alzheimers disease and other forms of dementia. If youd like to know more about a safe, welcoming home as a transition for your loved one, contact us today or give a call us at 368-4438. We will be happy to answer your questions and determine the best community and memory care plan that aligns with your loved ones specific needs.
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How Is Alzheimers Disease Diagnosed
Doctors use several methods and tools to help determine whether a person who is having memory problems has Alzheimers disease.
To diagnose Alzheimers, doctors may:
- Ask the person and a family member or friend questions about overall health, use of prescription and over-the-counter medicines, diet, past medical problems, ability to carry out daily activities, and changes in behavior and personality.
- Conduct tests of memory, problem solving, attention, counting, and language.
- Carry out standard medical tests, such as blood and urine tests, to identify other possible causes of the problem.
- Perform brain scans, such as computed tomography , magnetic resonance imaging , or positron emission tomography , to support an Alzheimers diagnosis or to rule out other possible causes for symptoms.
These tests may be repeated to give doctors information about how the persons memory and other cognitive functions are changing over time.
People with memory and thinking concerns should talk to their doctor to find out whether their symptoms are due to Alzheimers or another cause, such as stroke, tumor, Parkinsons disease, sleep disturbances, side effects of medication, an infection, or another type of dementia. Some of these conditions may be treatable and possibly reversible.
In addition, an early diagnosis provides people with more opportunities to participate in clinical trials or other research studies testing possible new treatments for Alzheimers.
Support For Families And Carers
Family members and friends often find themselves in the role of a carer when a loved one is living with dementia. While caring for your loved one can be rewarding, it can also have its tougher days. As you care for someone with dementia, you may not be taking as much care of your own emotional, mental or physical wellbeing.
Whether youre the husband, wife, partner, daughter, son, brother, sister or friend of the person, your relationship will change. Dementia Australia offers support for families and carers so you dont feel alone.
Services offered through Dementia Australia can help you:
- support the person to live well at home, for as long as possible
- support the person to continue with their hobbies, activities and interests
- learn about dementia, so youre better equipped to manage changes
- access support services and programs to maintain your health and wellbeing.
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Medications To Treat The Underlying Alzheimer’s Disease Process
Aducanumab is the first disease-modifying therapy approved by the FDA to treat Alzheimers disease. The medication helps to reduce amyloid deposits in the brain and may help slow the progression of Alzheimers, although it has not yet been shown to affect clinical outcomes such as progression of cognitive decline or dementia. A doctor or specialist will likely perform tests, such as a PET scan or analysis of cerebrospinal fluid, to look for evidence of amyloid plaques and help decide if the treatment is right for the patient.
Aducanumab was approved through the FDAs Accelerated Approval Program. This process requires an additional study after approval to confirm the anticipated clinical benefit. If the follow-up trial fails to verify clinical benefit, the FDA may withdraw approval of the drug. Results of the phase 4 clinical trial for aducanumab are expected to be available by early 2030.
Several other disease-modifying medications are being tested in people with mild cognitive impairment or early Alzheimers as potential treatments.
How Alzheimers Disease Affects Family Dynamics
As seniors age, the likelihood they will need some form of care increases. When someone we love needs a little extra care, we oftentimes step into the caregiver role. Many caregivers face the risks of caregiver burnout, stress and exhaustion however, when the person you care for is your spouse, the risks may become higher. Why is this? Many spouses who serve as caregivers take in sickness and in health very deeply to heart, and this can lead them to hold themselves to high standards. Many spousal caregivers feel guilty if they do not go above and beyond the typical call of care. This can lead them to rest less than other caregivers and put off taking time for themselves so they can fulfill the duty of their vows.
When someone you love is diagnosed with Alzheimers disease or another form of dementia, family members may be unsure of how to react. Its not uncommon for family members to become confused, shocked or upset, but its also likely some may just jump right into being supportive, sympathetic and curious about what will occur as time goes on. No matter what the reactions are, Alzheimers disease will make some major changes to family dynamics, and its important to be prepared and plan for changes that may occur over time.
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What Is Alzheimer Disease
Alzheimer disease, which affects some older people, is different from everyday forgetting. It is a condition that permanently affects the brain. Over time, the disease makes it harder to remember even basic stuff, like how to tie a shoe.
Eventually, the person may have trouble remembering the names and faces of family members or even who he or she is. This can be very sad for the person and his or her family.
It’s important to know that Alzheimer disease does not affect kids. It usually affects people over 65 years of age. Researchers have found medicines that seem to slow the disease down. And there’s hope that someday there will be a cure.
What Is Known About Alzheimers Disease
Scientists do not yet fully understand what causes Alzheimers disease. There likely is not a single cause but rather several factors that can affect each person differently.
- Age is the best known risk factor for Alzheimers disease.
- Family historyresearchers believe that genetics may play a role in developing Alzheimers disease. However, genes do not equal destiny. A healthy lifestyle may help reduce your risk of developing Alzheimers disease. Two large, long term studies indicate that adequate physical activity, a nutritious diet, limited alcohol consumption, and not smoking may help people. To learn more about the study, you can listen to a short podcast.
- Changes in the brain can begin years before the first symptoms appear.
- Researchers are studying whether education, diet, and environment play a role in developing Alzheimers disease.
- There is growing scientific evidence that healthy behaviors, which have been shown to prevent cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, may also reduce risk for subjective cognitive decline. Heres 8 ways.
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Alzheimers Information For Families
While there is no perfect memory loss remedy, there are several things that you can do to prevent it. First of all, exercising regularly can help keep your lungs in good shape. People who get regular exercise have better memories, and a regular exercise program can reduce stress. Additionally, exercising can help prevent memory loss by keeping your mind active. Here are some of the best ways to make your brain healthier and keep your mind sharp. Read on to learn more. Alzheimers Information for Families
Health Environmental And Lifestyle Factors
Research suggests that a host of factors beyond genetics may play a role in the development and course of Alzheimers. There is a great deal of interest, for example, in the relationship between cognitive decline and vascular conditions, such as heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure, as well as metabolic diseases, such as diabetes and obesity. Ongoing research will help us understand whether and how reducing risk factors for these conditions may also reduce the risk of Alzheimers.
A nutritious diet, physical activity, social engagement, and mentally stimulating pursuits have all been associated with helping people stay healthy as they age. These factors might also help reduce the risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimers. Researchers are testing some of these possibilities in clinical trials.
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