Amelia Gillis, LMHC
Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative brain disease and the most common form of dementia. Dementia is not a specific disease. It's an overall term that describes a group of symptoms.
Memory loss that disrupts daily life may be a symptom of Alzheimer's or other dementia. Alzheimer's is a brain disease that causes a slow decline in memory, thinking and reasoning skills. There are 10 warning signs and symptoms. If you notice any of them, don't ignore them.
Warning Signs and Symptoms include:
Memory loss that disrupts daily life
Challenges in planning or solving problems
Difficulty completing familiar tasks
Confusion with time or place
Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
New problems with words in speaking or writing
Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
Decreased or poor judgment
Withdrawal from work or social activities
Changes in mood and personality
Get checked. Early detection is essential.
Everyone who has a brain is at risk to develop Alzheimer’s, the only leading cause of death that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed. If you notice one or more signs in yourself or another person, it can be difficult to know what to do. It’s natural to feel nervous about the changes that you notice. However, it is important to take action to figure out what’s going on earlier on. In many ways, mental illness can manifest the same symptoms of Alzheimer’s dementia, and vice versa. Two conditions can be present concurrently. The relationship between dementia and depression is complicated because some of the symptoms of dementia and depression overlap.
Depression is often intermingled with the belief that this is simply an older adult’s reaction and awareness of progressive decline. Misdiagnosis can occur because research states that depression is considered the most common mental disorder among seniors. So when love ones are seeing increased memory issues or changes in emotions or loss of interest, it can be easily assumed that it’s depression. Therefore, if you suspect yourself or a family member, then speak with the person’s doctor, who will be able to carry out a thorough examination to rule out other medical problems or conditions.
Strategies for dealing with caregiver stress
The emotional and physical demands involved with caregiving can strain even the most resilient person. Being a caregiver for someone in the stages of Alzheimer's requires flexibility and patience. The abilities of the person with Alzheimer's change and their ability to function independently becomes more difficult, you will have to take on greater responsibility. The emotional and physical demands involved with caregiving can strain even the most resilient person. That's why it's so important to take advantage of the many resources and tools available to help you provide care for your loved one. Remember, if you don't take care of yourself, you won't be able to care for anyone else.
To help manage caregiver stress:
Accept help. Be prepared with a list of ways that others can help you, and let the helper choose what he or she would like to do.
Focus on what you are able to provide. It's normal to feel guilty sometimes, but understand that no one is a "perfect" caregiver. Believe that you are doing the best you can and that you are making the best decisions you can at any given time.
Set realistic goals. Break large tasks into smaller steps that you can do one at a time. Prioritize, make lists and establish a daily routine. If a request is draining, be ok with saying no.
Get connected. Find out about caregiving resources in your community. Many communities have classes specifically about the disease your loved one is facing. Caregiving services such as transportation, meal delivery or housekeeping may be available.
Join a support group. A support group can provide validation and encouragement, as well as problem-solving strategies for difficult situations. People in support groups understand what you may be going through. A support group can also be a good place to create meaningful friendships.
Seek social support. Make an effort to stay well-connected with family and friends who can offer nonjudgmental emotional support. Set aside time each week for connecting, even if it's just a walk with a friend.
Whether you are the one identifying with Alzheimer’s or supporting someone. You are not alone. For more resources, please check out www.alz.org.