Alzheimer's disease is not simply about the fading out of names, dates, and places but is about the interior scraping of an entire life fading into the mists of non-recognition.
Alzheimer's disease is – against common knowledge – not a simple deletion of the past;it goes far beyond this concept to the limit of deletingthe ability to differentiate between the past, present and future.
A big HOW poses itself when someone mentions Alzheimer. Is it that simple that someone can lose all their default settings and memories?
The answer lies within the process of the disease, as Alzheimer's disease causes brain changes that gradually get worse - brain changes that cause progressive loss of intellectual and social skills, severe enough to interfere with day-to-day life. In Alzheimer's disease, brain cells degenerate and die, causing a steady decline in memory and mental function.
Can we notice Alzheimer's?
The first symptoms of Alzheimer's disease anyone may notice are increasing forgetfulness and mild confusion. Over time, the disease has a growing impact on the memory, the ability to speak and write coherently, and affects judgment and problem solving.
Someone with Alzheimer's will be the first to notice that he is having unusual difficulty remembering things and organizing his thoughts. Or he may not recognize that anything is wrong, even when changes are noticeable to family members, close friends or co-workers.
Alzheimer's is well known by a series of growing troubles
Everyone has occasional memory lapses. It's normal to lose track of where you put your keys, or forget the name of an acquaintance. But the memory loss associated with Alzheimer's disease persists and gets worse. People with Alzheimer's may:
- Repeat statements and questions over and over.
- Forgetconversations, appointments or events, and not remember them later.
- Routinely misplace possessions, often putting them in illogical locations.
- Eventually forget the names of family members and everyday objects.
- Disorientation and misinterpreting spatial relationships
People with Alzheimer's disease may lose their sense of what day it is, the time of year, where they are or even their current life circumstances. Alzheimer's may also disrupt the brain's ability to interpret what you see, making it difficult to understand your surroundings. Eventually, these problems may lead to getting lost in familiar places.
Speaking and writing
Those with Alzheimer's may have trouble finding the right words to identify objects, express thoughts or take part in conversations. Over time, the ability to read and write also declines.
Thinking and reasoning
Alzheimer's disease causes difficulty concentrating and thinking, especially about abstract concepts like numbers. Many people find it challenging to manage their finances, balance their check books, and keep track of bills and pay them on time. These difficulties may progress to inability to recognize and deal with numbers.
Making judgments and decisions
Responding effectively to everyday problems, such as food burning on the stove or unexpected driving situations, becomes increasingly challenging.
Planning and performing familiar tasks
Once-routine activities that require sequential steps, such as planning and cooking a meal or playing a favourite game, become a struggle as the disease progresses. Eventually, people with advanced Alzheimer's may forget how to perform basic tasks such as dressing and bathing.
Changes in personality and behaviour
Brain changes that occur in Alzheimer's disease can affect the way people act and how they feel.
Ways out of the maze of Alzheimer's
Although, current Alzheimer's medications can help for a time with memory symptoms and other cognitive changes, however the role of support and care is the key for making them live happier. If they can't recognize the environment, the least of their requirements is a safe and supportive environment to adapt the living situation to their needs.
You can take these steps to support a person's sense of well-being and continued ability to function:
- Remove excess furniture, clutter and throw rugs.
- Install sturdy handrails on stairways and in bathrooms.
- Ensure that shoes and slippers are comfortable and provide good traction.
- Reduce the number of mirrors. People with Alzheimer's may find images in mirrors confusing or frightening.
Regular exercise is an important part of everybody's wellness plan — and those with Alzheimer's are no exception. Activities like a daily 30-minute walk can help improve mood and maintain the health of joints, muscles and heart. Exercise can also promote restful sleep and prevent constipation. Make sure that the person with Alzheimer's carries identification if she or he walks unaccompanied.
People with Alzheimer's who develop trouble walking may still be able to use a stationary bike or enjoy chair exercises.
People with Alzheimer's may forget to eat, lose interest in preparing meals or not eat a healthy combination of foods. They may also forget to drink enough, leading to dehydration and constipation. They should be offered:
- High-calorie, healthy shakes and smoothies. You can supplement milkshakes with protein powders (available at grocery stores, drugstores and discount retailers) or use your blender to make smoothies featuring theirfavourite ingredients.
- Water, juice and other healthy beverages. Try to ensure that a person with Alzheimer's drinks at least several full glasses of liquid every day. Avoid beverages with caffeine, which can increase restlessness, interfere with sleep and trigger frequent need to urinate.
Certain nutritional supplements are marketed as "medical foods" specifically to treat Alzheimer's disease. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve products marketed as medical foods. Despite marketing claims, there's no definitive data showing that any of these supplements is beneficial or safe.
When persons with Alzheimer's find that their mental abilities are declining, they often feel vulnerable and in need of reassurance and support. We –as people close to them - need to do everything we can to help the person to retain their sense of identity and feelings of self-worth. When you're caring for someone with Alzheimer's, it can be all too easy to ignore your own needs and to forget that you matter too.But it's much easier to cope if you look after your own health and wellbeing, and then you can give lots of the support available.