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Understanding Alzheimers Disease and Dementia

Recently, Alzheimer’s disease has moved into the number six position as cause of death for senior citizens, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. It is important that families comprehend what is happening to their loved one.

Dementia is the loss of cognitive functioning and intellectual reasoning due to changes in the brain caused by disease. Those with dementia tend to repeat questions, become disoriented in familiar places, neglect personal hygiene or nutrition or get confused about people or time. It can be caused by many things, some of which are reversible — such as vitamin deficiencies and poor nutrition, reactions to medications or problems with the thyroid. However, some forms of dementia are irreversible, such as that caused by mini strokes or Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s disease occurs when nerve cells deteriorate in the brain due to a build up of plaque and tangles, which results in the death of a large number of brain cells. Doctors are not sure why this occurs, but research is underway to determine causes and cures. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 5.4 million Americans are presently living with Alzheimer’s disease.

It is important to remember that Alzheimer’s is a medical condition and disease of the brain. If the brain affects thoughts, feelings, personality and behavior, then Alzheimer’s is going to affect how your loved one thinks, what he feels, who he is and what he does. The range of symptoms can be enormous. Also, people with Alzheimer’s don’t necessarily look sick. Although Alzheimer’s disease is a physical illness, it often doesn’t affect a person’s appearance until the later stages of the disease. This might be confusing to you because your loved one may seem as healthy as ever, but just acting differently.

03-14-12-homeinstead.jpgIf you are caring for someone in this situation, you may find it helpful to read other information available on www.caregiverstress. com.

Once they understand the situation being presented, the family needs to consider the many options available. Because custodial care is not covered by typical health insurance, families are mostly responsible for providing the care. Care is costly, time-consuming and can take its toll, physically and emotionally, on the family members.

The Wall Street Journal (February 18, 2012) shared an article about resources for families struggling with the care of someone suffering with Alzheimer’s Disease. The focus of the article was the negative effects this devastating disease can have on the caregivers and some places to obtain assistance.

Recently, Home Instead Senior Care in Fayetteville, has started training care givers in new techniques and strategies to improve care for dementia patients. In the fall of 2012, the local office will offer the same instruction to family caregivers. If you are interested in participating in this training call 484-7200.

These simple strategies can help people with Alzheimer’s disease prolong their time at home, which is where most people want to be.

“Rather than trying to force Alzheimer’s patients to live in our world in the here and now,” Home Instead’s president Jeff Huber says, “we need to meet them in the past.”

Photo: People with Alzheimers’s don’t always look sick.

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