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Alzheimer's Care Guide | Senior Care Services | CarePatrol - alz-1

Understanding Alzheimer's Disease

According to the Alzheimer's Association, more than 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's disease. By 2050, this number could reach 13 million.

Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of dementia. It is a brain disorder that causes progressive memory loss, cognitive decline, and behavioral changes. This affects a person's ability to function independently, interact with others, and care for themselves. 

Alzheimer's disease is caused by abnormal protein deposits in the brain called plaques and tangles. These deposits disrupt communications between brain cells and eventually cause them to die. As the disease progresses, it affects language, reasoning, and social behavior. 

Alzheimer's disease is most common in people over 65 with a family history of the disease. There is no cure, but quality care can manage the disease’s progression and symptoms.

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Identifying Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's disease impacts a person's ability to remember information, learn new things, reason, communicate, and perform daily activities. It also affects their mood, personality, and behavior.

The symptoms of Alzheimer's disease vary from person to person and depend on the different stages of the disease. A person with dementia of any kind will have great difficulty remembering new information and completing tasks, but they may be able to vividly recall events from earlier in their life. Starting and finishing familiar activities like driving, cooking, or paying bills can suddenly become confusing and frustrating. Symptoms usually develop gradually and worsen over time.

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Common Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease

Professionals usually divide the intensity of Alzheimer's symptoms into early, middle, and late stage. In later stages, Alzheimer's patients may also experience hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, and agitation. These behaviors often worsen in the evening, a pattern known as "sundowning." If you notice any of these signs or symptoms in yourself or a loved one, consult a doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. Signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s include:

  • Memory loss that disrupts daily life (forgetting important dates or names, missing appointments or events, etc.)
  • Difficulty finding words or expressing thoughts, such as repeating questions or stories, slurring speech, or stopping mid-sentence
  • Confusion about time or place (losing track of dates, seasons, or locations)
  • Difficulty following instructions
  • Poor judgment
  • Being unable to retrace steps
  • Misplacing things
  • Financial issues/inability to track funds or stick to a budget
  • Shame, embarrassment, irritability, and mood swings
  • Withdrawing from work or recreational activities
  • Spoiled food, dirty laundry, and stacks of unopened mail in the home
  • Getting into car accidents
  • Letting go of personal hygiene
  • Weight loss/forgetting to eat
  • Forgetting to take medication or taking too much
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How is Alzheimer's Different from Dementia
or Memory Loss?

Dementia is a general term that describes a range of symptoms affecting memory, thinking, and behavior. Alzheimer's disease is a specific type of dementia that accounts for 60 to 70% of all dementia cases, according to the World Health Organization. There are many other types of dementia besides Alzheimer's disease, such as vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, frontotemporal dementia, and mixed dementia.

Memory loss is one of the main symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer's disease. However, not all memory loss is caused by dementia or Alzheimer's disease. As we age, it is normal to experience some minor memory problems that don't disrupt our daily functioning. Other causes of memory loss unrelated to dementia or Alzheimer's disease can include stress, depression, anxiety, sleep deprivation, and head injury.

The differences between Alzheimer's, dementia, and memory loss are important to understand because they can affect the treatment options, long-term care, and outcomes for each condition. Therefore, it is essential to get an accurate diagnosis from a doctor if you have any concerns about memory or cognitive abilities.

How to Care for Family Members with Alzheimer's Disease

Caring for a family member with Alzheimer's disease can be frustrating and heartbreaking, but it doesn't have to be. With guidance and support from CarePatrol, you can celebrate daily wins and help your loved one maintain their quality of life.

There's no one-size-fits-all approach to caring for someone with Alzheimer's disease. However, there are some general tips that can help you provide the best care possible.

Get Informed

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Educate yourself about the disease and its progression. Join support groups for family caregivers and others affected by Alzheimer's. This can help you understand what to expect and how to cope with the changes still to come.

Communicate Effectively

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Patience, a structured routine, and repetition are the most important components of caring for someone with Alzheimer's. Use simple, clear, and respectful language. Avoid arguing or correcting them if they make mistakes or say something inaccurate. Try to maintain eye contact and use gestures and physical touch to convey your message. Listen actively and empathetically to their feelings and concerns. Provide them with choices and options whenever possible.

Get Creative and Stay Active

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People with dementia need to engage in meaningful activities that stimulate cognitive development, give them something to focus intently on, and make them feel productive and accomplished. Help your loved one maintain their old interests and hobbies as much as possible. Encourage them to participate in social and physical activities that are appropriate for their abilities and preferences. Avoid overstimulating or understimulating them. 

Some activities you can suggest or participate in together are:

  • Music
  • Knitting or crochet
  • Painting
  • Dance lessons
  • Birdwatching
  • Gardening
  • Scrapbooking
  • Board games
  • Jigsaw puzzles, crossword puzzles, word games, or sudoku

Outside of the home, local adult day centers can be safe, supportive settings to participate in these activities and make new connections.

Be Mindful of Medications

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Manage medical care and medications. Keep track of appointments, tests, and prescriptions. Monitor your loved one's symptoms and side effects and report any changes or concerns to their doctor. Administer medications as prescribed and store them safely out of reach to prevent accidental overdose.

Consider Home Modifications

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Make sure the home environment is safe and accessible. Remove any potential hazards or obstacles that could cause falls or injuries. Even if you don't need to remodel and add major safety features or mobility aids to a home, there are other small changes that can help. Install locks, alarms, or sensors to prevent wandering or accidents. Add clear signs, labels, calendars, and reminders to the home. Help them declutter and stay organized.

Plan for the Future

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As Alzheimer's disease progresses, your loved one may need more assistance and supervision than you can provide. Visit multiple memory care nursing homes and long-term care facilities as you consider your options. Invite your loved one to come along and make it a positive experience. Take lots of notes. Is the facility clean? Are the staff open, honest, and collaborative? Are there programs and activities relevant to your family member's interests?

You may also need to start making legal and financial decisions on their behalf. It's important to plan ahead for these situations and discuss them with your loved one while they are still able to express their wishes. Consult a lawyer or a financial planner for help.

Memory Care Community vs. In-Home Care

One of the most difficult decisions you may face as a family caregiver is whether to keep your loved one at home or make the transition to a memory care community. CarePatrol helps you explore the differences so you can make an informed decision.

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The Benefits of Memory Care

A memory care community is a specialized type of assisted living facility or retirement community that provides 24/7 care and supervision for residents with Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia. It offers a safe and secure environment that is specifically designed to meet the needs and preferences of people with memory loss issues.

Benefits of living in continuing care retirement communities with memory care programs include:

  • Access to trained staff members who can handle health care needs in addition to the behavioral challenges of Alzheimer's disease including medication reminders
  • Availability of specialized programs, support groups, and planned activities that stimulate the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of residents
  • Opportunity to make friends, prevent social isolation, and interact with others who share similar experiences, interests, and challenges
  • Routines, meal services, medication reminders, and personal care services
  • Special safety features to reduce fall risks and enclosed courtyards to prevent wandering or escape
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The Benefits of In-Home Care

High costs coupled with difficulties adjusting to a new environment may make a person with Alzheimer's hesitant to make this transition. Instead, many families choose to hire an in-home caregiver. This allows your loved one to stay in the comfort of their own home while receiving professional assistance from a caregiver who lives with them or regularly visits them.

Benefits of in-home care services include:

  • Continuity of care in a familiar and comfortable setting
  • Transportation to medical appointments and errands
  • Assistance with meal prep, hygiene, medication, light housekeeping, and other personal care services and daily tasks
  • Preserves the sense of identity and dignity of your loved one
  • Staying in a familiar place and sticking to a routine can improve mental health
  • Flexibility of care can be tailored to the specific needs, preferences, and schedule of your loved one
  • Close collaboration and involvement of family members in the care plan
  • Lower cost than a nursing home or other assisted living facilities

In-home care may be a good fit for the early stages. However, as Alzheimer's disease or dementia progresses, the patient may need around-the-clock supervision and support for their medical needs. To explore local resources, plan for care costs, and find a memory care facility or a qualified provider of in-home care services near you, please contact CarePatrol now. We're happy to help!

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How to Find the Best Alzheimer's Treatment Centers in Your Area

Receiving a diagnosis of Alzheimer's is a life-changing event that brings along a range of emotions and questions. Understanding this disease and knowing where to find resources is the first step to facing the challenges ahead. Fortunately, CarePatrol is here for you.

Since 1993, we've partnered with thousands of families to find the right senior care solution for their loved ones, including assisted living, independent living, memory care, in-home care, nursing homes, and more. Our trusted experts are here to provide support through the transition process. We do not work for communities, so our professional recommendations are unbiased and independent. We gladly accompany families on facility tours to provide support and ask the right questions, and we are experienced in working with case managers and social workers. We can even assist you with Medicare and other state or federal funding options to help pay for care! To explore senior care solutions for your aging loved one living with Alzheimer's or dementia, reach out to meet with your local CarePatrol senior care advisor today at no cost to you.

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Participate in Walk to End Alzheimer’s

As an Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s® National Team, we form teams and raise funds and awareness for events across the country. Every dollar we raise makes a difference in the lives of those facing this devastating disease, and helps bring us closer to the vision of the Alzheimer’s Association®: a world without Alzheimer’s and all other dementia®. Click to find a local team in your area.

Find a Team Near You