Progressive disease requires support from loved ones, community

Perhaps no disease has the ability to wreak havoc on the health and stability of an elderly person’s later years than Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s, which is a form of dementia, is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain. It causes the memory and thinking patterns to become altered or impaired.

Alzheimer’s is a life-long disorder and over the years it will cause life-long effects. As it progresses it will affect different areas of the brain, causing some abilities to become impaired.

There are three stages of Alzheimer’s: the early stage where the patient is first diagnosed and begins to experience mild impairments; the middle stage, which brings a greater decline in cognitive and functional abilities; and lastly the late stage where the patient is unable to communicate verbally and requires 24 hours a day care.

Speech impairment is one of the most recognized symptoms of Alzheimer’s. People with early stages of Alzheimer’s tend to choose the wrong words or do not understand simple sentences. A problem with numbers is also common.

As a senior or someone with an elderly family it is important to know the warning signs associated with Alzheimer’s. They include:

  • memory loss
  • difficulty performing familiar tasks
  • problems with language
  • disorientation of the time and place
  • misplacing things
  • changes in personality
  • loss of initiative

There are a few ways to help Alzheimer’s patients that do not involve medication, such as:

  • reminder notes
  • personal organizing tools such as date books and beepers
  • providing instructions for activities like bathing and eating
  • family counseling
  • behavior training for inappropriate behaviors

Like dementia, there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s but medication can help with some of the symptoms associated with this disorder.

As well, a wealth of educational resources, support groups, forums and other aids have made living with Alzheimer’s less of a burden for patients and family members.

In Canada, your starting point when seeking help should The Alzheimer Society

In the U.S., The Alzheimer’s Association helps fundraise for research, advocate for policy changes, motivate community involvement, and provides a vast array of information and educational resources. This organization also maintains a database of local chapters and support programs.