How to care for a loved one living with Alzheimer's
Learning the news of your senior loved one being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease can be difficult for the whole family. Naturally, there will be questions, concerns, and feelings of uncertainty. What comes next? How will their health be a year from now? How quickly will it progress? All of these are valid questions and concerns to have. Visiting Angels Chelmsford knows that navigating a new normal can be challenging and we are here to offer support where you need it most.
With the uncertainty that comes with a loved one being diagnosed with Alzheimer's, knowing how to support your loved one can make it easier to handle. We've put together the information you should know about the disease, as well as top tips to follow when caring for a senior loved one living with Alzheimer's.
What is Alzheimer's?
Alzheimer's is the most commonly found cause of dementia, which is a general term for memory loss and other cognitive abilities severe enough to get in the way of daily life. Approximately 60-80% of dementia cases are a result of Alzheimer's disease.
While it is common for our brains to slow down as we age, Alzheimer's is not a part of the aging process. The most significant risk factor for developing Alzheimer's is aging. Most people living with Alzheimer's are 65 years or older. Scientists believe that Alzheimer's is brought on by several factors in an individual's life. Things that play a factor include genetics, lifestyle, and environmental factors that affect the brain over a person's lifetime. The damage that occurs begins in the region of the brain that controls memory, but the process starts several years before the first symptoms become noticeable. The loss of neurons begins spreading in a pattern to other regions of the brain. By the late stage of Alzheimer's disease, the brain has shrunk significantly in size.
Is there a cure for Alzheimer's?
Unfortunately, there is no known cure for Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's disease is complex, and it's unlikely that any treatment can fully cure it. However, there are ways to manage and slow the progress of the disease.
Several medications can help slow the progression of the disease. However, it's important to note that medication usually works best for those living with mild Alzheimer's. For example, these medications can slow down a few symptoms, such as memory loss, for some time. Medications called cholinesterase inhibitors are prescribed to those living with mild Alzheimer's but only offer a temporary fix. As the disease progresses, the effectiveness of the medication will fade.
For those living with more advanced Alzheimer's, a medication that will lessen the effects of some symptoms and give the individual more time to carry on with daily life is available. That medication is called Namenda and helps regulate glutamate production. Scientists believe that an increase in glutamate production is what leads to excess brain cells dying.
While these medications will slow down the spread of Alzheimer's disease, it's imperative to understand that these are temporary solutions and not a cure.
How to care for your loved one
Your loved one will need the support of those around them as they navigate a new normal. Here are a few ways you can care for a loved one living with Alzheimer's.
Learn about Alzheimer's - Understanding all that you can about Alzheimer's will give you a better idea of what your loved one is going through. It will also give you the chance to advocate for your loved ones when they may not be able to. This will especially be important as the disease advances.
Create a routine - Having a routine will allow your senior loved one to feel more comfortable and reinforce a sense of familiarity. The great thing about creating a routine for your loved one is that it doesn't have to be done alone. Here at Visiting Angels Chelmsford, we will work with you to build a routine that works best for your loved one's needs.
Promote ongoing communication - The ability to communicate effectively is significantly impacted with Alzheimer's disease. Promoting conversation as often as possible will give your senior loved ones a chance to exercise their brain and socialize with those around them. To make conversations easier, maintain eye contact, use welcoming body language, say your loved one's name, and speak in a soft, calming voice.
How Visiting Angels Chelmsford can help
Visiting Angels Chelmsford is here to support you and your senior loved one as they navigate through this disease. Many of our professional caregivers are specially trained to care for those living with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. To learn more about the Alzheimer’s Care Services we offer, we encourage you to visit us online or give us a call at 978-244-0200.