Wednesday, November 9, 2011

National Alzheimers Disease Awareness Month


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By Diane Forrest, RN

My family had been living in our home for a couple of years when an elderly woman moved into the vacant house behind us.  She was the mother of an instructor from the school I had graduated from.  We never really got to know her well because we, as most people, were busy with our day to day activities.  One morning I left my husband in the shower as I had to run to the store right quick to pick something up.  I was only gone a couple of minutes before I got a distress call from my husband...he was in a panic when he told me someone had come into our home.  The door on our back deck opens to the bathroom, and since I was only going to be gone for a few minutes, I didn’t lock it.  I raced back home to find my husband terribly frightened and wrapped in his towel.  I soon learned that this nice elderly woman had walked in on my husband in the shower, insisting that he get out of her house.  By the time I got home, she had already left, but it was then that we learned she was suffering from Alzheimer’s. We had a few more occasions to cross her path; she had entered other's homes, pulled up my newly planted plants, and other various mischiefs.  The breaking point was when I discovered her out walking in the middle of the road putting herself in danger from the traffic in our neighborhood.  I notified her son and he was forced to move her to his home so that she could be watched more closely.

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Alzheimer's disease is one form of dementia that gradually gets worse over time. It affects memory, thinking, and behavior.  Alzheimer's affects the elderly; however it is not a part of the normal aging process.  The cause of Alzheimer's is not known, and cannot be accurately diagnosed until after death when brain tissues can be examined.  There are some factors that can increase one's chances of getting the disease and they include having a relative who has been diagnosed with the disease, head trauma during your life, longstanding high blood pressure, and it occurs more frequently in females.

Symptoms of Alzheimer's include:
  • Forgetting recent events or conversations
  • Difficulty performing more than one task at a time
  • Difficulty solving problems
  • Taking longer to perform more difficult activities
  • Language problems, such as trouble finding the name of familiar objects
  • Misplacing items
  • Getting lost on familiar routes
  • Personality changes and loss of social skills
  • Losing interest in things previously enjoyed, flat mood
  • Difficulty performing tasks that take some thought, but used to come easily, such as balancing a checkbook, playing complex games (such as bridge), and learning new information or routines
  • Forgetting details about current events
  • Forgetting events in your own life history, losing awareness of who you are
  • Change in sleep patterns, often waking up at night
  • Difficulty reading or writing
  • Poor judgment and loss of ability to recognize danger
  • Using the wrong word, mispronouncing words, speaking in confusing sentences
  • Withdrawing from social contact
  • Having hallucinations, arguments, striking out, and violent behavior
  • Having delusions, depression, agitation
  • Difficulty doing basic tasks, such as preparing meals, choosing proper clothing, and driving
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There is no cure for Alzheimer's, and treatment is only for treating the symptoms.  The main goal is to slow the progression of the disease, there are a few drugs currently available, and however the side effects from these drugs are discouraging.  Other goals are to keep the person safe from harm, modifying their home environment, and providing support for family members and care givers.

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There is no way to prevent Alzheimer's, however there are some things you can try that may help, such as eating a low fat diet, eating cold water fish or Omega 3 supplements, eating dark green vegetables, maintaining a low blood pressure and remain mentally and socially active and alert.

The course of caring for someone with Alzheimer's is a very difficult and draining situation.  Family members and caregivers need support and assistance. 

For more information one Alzheimer's and how you can help, visit this site:  http://www.alz.org/

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