Alzheimer’s disease is form of dementia that is a serious brain disorder. A person who has Alzheimer’s may not be able to carry out normal day to day functions as the disease causes memory loss and cognitive changes. According to studies, one in ten people over the age of 65 and more than half of people over the age of 85 have this disease. It is estimated that approximately 15 million Americans will have Alzheimer’s by the year 2050. Alzheimer’s disease develops slowly, beginning with mild memory loss, but eventually leads to widespread brain impairment.
Old Age or Alzheimer’s?
Seniors over the age of 65 usually have their forgetful moments, make wrong turns occasionally and forget appointments. This is inconvenient, but very much a part of the aging process that medical professionals refer to as mild cognitive impairment. However, once a person’s ability to solve problems, learn new information and carry out normal daily activities is affected, this is when you should worry.
Behavior Changes in Alzheimer’s
The cognitive symptoms of Alzheimer’s are memory loss, thinking and reasoning ability and language. However, there are other behavior changes that should be expected when a loved one has Alzheimer’s. In the early stages of Alzheimer’s, people may experience personality changes such as depression, anxiety and irritability. As the disease progresses, so do the symptoms. People then start to experience sleep disturbances, hallucinations and delusions. They also experience agitation. This may be physical or verbal outbursts, restlessness, pacing, emotional distress, and yelling. For family members and loved ones, these behavior changes prove to be the most stressful and challenging part of dealing with people with Alzheimer’s disease. It also plays a significant role in placing loved ones with the disease in long term care facilities.
Deterioration in Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s is a degenerative disease as there currently is no cure for the disease neither can its progression be reversed. In the early stages of Alzheimer’s, people experience mild memory loss, communication difficulties and changes in mood and behavior. However, they are still very much in control of their actions and can carry out most daily activities with little or no assistance. In the middle stages, a greater decline in the person’s cognitive and functioning capabilities should be expected. Although many people are still aware of their condition at this stage, the symptoms experienced in the early stages will only continue to progress in this stage. Alzheimer’s sufferers will also need assistance carrying out many daily functions at this stage.
The last stage, which may also be referred to as advanced or severe stage of the disease is when the person can no longer live a normal life. They can not carry out normal daily activities and will even need assistance doing literally everything. When death is near the main priority is to focus on making daily life as comfortable as possible. Physical, emotional and spiritual needs must also be taken into consideration to enhance the quality of life at this final stage.
Communication in Alzheimer’s
People with Alzheimer’s disease often experience difficulty in communicating. They also have a problem expressing themselves, especially through thoughts and emotions. They have difficulty comprehending information and understanding others. In the early stages of Alzheimer’s, people may forget certain words and repeat the same stories occasionally. As the disease progresses, they may start to invent new words to describe familiar things and objects, lose their train of thought easily, have difficulty organizing words in a logical order, speak less and revert back to a native language.
Speech in Alzheimer’s
In the early stages of Alzheimer’s people may still be able to communicate for the most part. As time goes by, they start to forget familiar words that they may have used their whole lives. The person may also revert back to a native language. Many Alzheimer’s sufferers become withdrawn and start to speak less. In those final stages of Alzheimer’s, the person only speaks approximately half a dozen intelligible words per day. In certain cases, the ability to speak will cease altogether, making communication with others near impossible.
Memory Loss in Alzheimer’s
In the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s, the person may experience mild memory loss. They may not have recollection of recent events and forget certain details. As time goes by the memory loss will get worse as they start to forget familiar people such as family members, names of people and places. The person may also forget how to use items that they have used their entire life, such as a fork or a pen.
Caring for a person with Alzheimer’s disease can be challenging physically, emotionally and financially. In order to be able to cope and provide the best possible care for your sick loved one and yourself, you should educate yourself on all aspects of this disease. Many caregivers have found that joining support groups have helped them cope with this huge responsibility.
How a Home Care Aide Can Help an Alzheimer’s Patient
Most dementia and Alzheimer’s patients ideally would prefer to receive care in the familiarity, dignity and comfort of their own homes, rather than having to spend the remainder of their lives in a nursing home. Their family members and friends also feel better about having them at home, where they can keep an eye on them and help to the extent they can. However, as the condition gets worse, patients need more specialized care, which is why the presence of a home care aide can be beneficial.
A home care aide can perform a wide range of services, which allow an Alzheimer’s patient to stay in his or her own home. However, not all home care services are the same. Some provide non-medical assistance, while others involve care given by qualified health professionals, such as a physical therapist or nurse. Common types of home care services for Alzheimer’s patients include:
• Skilled care services (medical), which help with physical therapy, injections, wound care, and other medical needs.
• Personal care services that help with exercising, bathing, dressing, eating, toileting, and other personal care.
• Companion services that help with recreational activities, supervision, or visiting.
• Homemaker services that help with meal preparation, shopping, and housekeeping.
When a family member or friend has Alzheimer’s disease, one must view all activities of daily living, such as eating, bathing, dressing and sleeping, through the lens of a progressive brain disorder. This is where the presence of a home care aide plays a vital role. Home care aides understand that these seemingly ordinary daily activities are actually the front lines of comfort and health. For example, forgetting to eat well can lead to weight loss or even worsen the condition.
A home care aide can notice signs of change in the daily routine, and guided by his or her training and experience, a good aide will know what is usual for the patient he/she is caring for. Noting small changes with an Alzheimer’s patient takes skill and experience. A home care aide would know whether the change is due to the condition or due to a different reason, for example, an illness or infection.
Specialized care is central to the modern home care landscape. After all, home care is not a one-size-fits-all profession. Home care services offer the benefit of matching an aide’s training, expertise or experience to a patient’s specific care needs. In addition, home care aides are often part of, or communicate with a larger team of professionals responsible for the implementation of all activities of daily living, including a nurse’s plan of care and doctor’s orders.
A large percentage of Alzheimer’s patients are cared for at home. However, finding and deciding on the care services needed is not always easy. It boils down to a personal decision based on a family’s financial situation and the patient’s needs. Before hiring a home care aide or service, it is important to get as much information as possible. In Miami and the neighboring cities call Jewish Home Care Services of Miami Dade at (305)749-0445 to get all the information and help you need.