Alzheimer’s disease can have devastating effects on the life of the sufferer, as well as their caregivers, family, and friends. Memory, cognition, and behavior all become affected, with symptoms eventually growing severe enough to interfere with simple daily tasks. September 21 is World Alzheimer’s Day—making September a good month to consider the impact this disease has on all of those involved.
Alzheimer’s disease accounts for about 60% to 80% of all dementia cases. Most people with this disease are 65 and older.
But Alzheimer’s isn’t an intrinsic part of old age. It’s normal to become more forgetful as you age. But Alzheimer’s isn’t normal. It’s a neurological brain disorder with three primary symptoms: memory loss that disrupts daily life, challenges in planning or solving problems, and difficulty completing familiar tasks.
Caregivers are essential
Because Alzheimer’s worsens over time and has no cure, caregiving becomes an essential part of the well-being of the sufferer. Some families choose to have their loved one live in a nursing home or other residential program, especially once the disease progresses and the patient requires full-time care. Others divide the care among family members and friends, sometimes with the addition of professional home care, which may be easier in the early stages of the disease when the patient has more independence.
How you can help?
If you know someone who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, you can first recognize that they are the same person they were before the diagnosis. Someone with this disease, depending on its progression, may have trouble engaging in familiar tasks. But they still need socialization and to be included in interesting conversation or a good laugh. Such routine stimulation can also help slow the progression of the disease. Finding new activities to do together and developing a healthier lifestyle, including better eating and more exercise, are also ways to help someone diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
The family of the person who has been diagnosed may also be suffering. They could be giving a lot of their energy to their loved one in the form of caretaking, long-term planning for eventualities, or just in keeping them engaged. They may also be grieving for their loved one and worry about what the future holds. Stay in touch, send a card, or let the family know that you care and some specific ways you can support them. Even small gestures like bringing them a meal or offering to sit with their loved one so they can take a break mean a lot.
It is important to understand that each Alzheimer’s patient and their family need varying levels of support and time to process the diagnosis. Although this disease is at the forefront of scientific research, a cure doesn’t yet exist. By showing kindness and compassion to families and those diagnosed, you can ensure they feel supported by their community.
And don’t stop in September. October offers one of Indiana’s major fundraising and awareness event, Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Registration is open now.