By all estimates, there are over 4.5 million people in the U.S. afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease and the Alzheimer’s Association found that the illness is the sixth most common cause of death in the United States, a jump of 68 percent from 2000 to 2010.
If you feel that a friend or family member is showing the signs of the onset of Alzheimer’s you should encourage them to seek medical attention and go with them to discuss stages and expectations with the physician.
Medical Assessment When Alzheimer’s is Expected
Physicians may suggest a blood test to determine if the APOE-e4 gene is present, it is the strongest risk gene for Alzheimer's as well as other tests such as Mental Status Tests, Mood Assessment, Mini-Cognitive and perhaps a brain imaging test.
These combined will help assess the patient and let the caregiver know what stage they are in and the specific type of care required.
Caring for Those with Alzheimer’s
Once diagnosed, the following tips can help those with Alzheimer's Disease:
- Limit choices so the person does not have to make decisions which can be difficult and frustrating.
- Remove distractions such as TV while the person is eating, bathing or doing other activities, as this distraction may take their mind away from the task at hand.
- If the individual has difficult remembering things from the past, often they comforted by music from their past.
- Make sure they are in a safe environment, where they can easily get around with a walker
- Use cabinet locks and make sure drawers within reach don’t contain harmful objects or medication.
- Make sure to keep a comfortable temperature; those with dementia or Alzheimer’s tend to be more sensitive to cold.
- Make sure you have fire alarms and fire extinguishers readily available in case they forget to turn the stove burners off.
- If the senior with Alzheimer’s experience difficulty communicating, write things down. Suggest that friends/family send notes rather than call. They can review the notes and may not remember a phone call.
- Speak to the person face-to-face and maintain eye contact.
- Don’t try to finish their sentences, let them try to respond.
- Use short sentences and make just one point to avoid confusion. Use easy words that they will be able to easily understand.
- Avoid words like: him, her, it, they, etc., they may not remember who you are talking about, use names instead.
- If they are able to do so, you may want to play a simple game like Bingo, puzzles or easy card game.
- Read something a chapter from a book they may have read in the past and enjoyed.
- Look at photo albums, specifically with photos of the individual at an earlier time in life, which may spark reminiscing about the past.
Surely, tending to those with Alzheimer’s can be challenging, but knowing these simple tips can help you get through this difficult time and help the individual suffering from the disease a better quality of life.