Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Alzheimer's Awareness Week - 2011

The focus of this week is to become aware of Alzheimer’s. Most people know about Alzheimer's and many know someone who has had it. When President Regan was diagnosed with the disease it made national news.

What is Alzheimer’s? Alzheimer's is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. Symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks.

10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s:
  1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life;
  2. Challenges in planning or solving problems;
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure;
  4. Confusion with time or place;
  5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships;
  6. New problems with words in speaking or writing;
  7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps;
  8. Decreased or poor judgment;
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities; and
  10. Changes in mood and personality.

Alzheimer's is not a common part of aging. There is no diagnosis, since it affects the brain, the only way to get an accurate diagnosis is to perform an autopsy on the brain after death. There is no cure, however there are some medications that can help slow the process.Caring for a family member with Alzheimer's can be very challenging. As the disease progresses the person can develop:

  • Anger;
  • Agitation;
  • Aggression;
  • General emotional distress;
  • Physical or verbal outbursts;
  • Restlessness, pacing, shredding paper or tissues;
  • Hallucinations (seeing, hearing or feeling things that are not really there;)
  • Delusions (firmly held belief in things that are not true); and
  • Sleep disturbances.

They will require constant monitoring to prevent injury to themselves or others. When I moved into my current home there was an elderly lady who lived in the home behind me. She was the mother of a respiratory therapist that I worked with. She lived alone, and had developed advanced signs of Alzheimer's. She would come into my yard and pull up plants I had planted and other minor destructive things, but the most concerning events was when she would walk into my home, thinking it was her home. She even walked in on my husband in the shower, not only frightening him, but becoming physically abusive to him as well. We had to inform her son that she could no longer be allowed to stay by herself any longer. He asked that since I was a nurse, if I could look after her. She required full time care, and I already had my hands full with caring for my husband. He eventually had to move her into a specialized Alzheimer's unit, a place that is equipped to care for these patients.

Caring for someone with Alzheimer's is very difficult and stressful, but there are organizations and support groups that offer help and encouragement. For More information, go to

Signs of Alzheimer's

Typical age-related changes

Poor judgment and decision making
Making a bad decision once in a while
Inability to manage a budget
Missing a monthly payment
Losing track of the date or the season
Forgetting which day it is and remembering later
Difficulty having a conversation
Sometimes forgetting which word to use
Misplacing things and being unable to retrace steps to find them
Losing things from time to time

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