Alzheimer's Disease: How to Care for Your Loved Ones

What is Alzheimer's disease?
Alzheimer's disease is a progressive, degenerative disease that destroys brain cells, eventually causing death. The disease is the most common cause of dementia which is the deterioration of a person's mental faculties. The cause of Alzheimer's is still not known.

What are the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease?
Alzheimer's disease gradually causes the loss of intellectual abilities such as memory, thinking, reasoning, judgment, orientation, and concentration, and it can cause drastic changes in personality, mood and behavior. In its early stages, it has symptoms similar to those of depression such as withdrawal, apathy, loss of concentration and interest, memory failure, anxiety, agitation, and delusions. Alzheimer's is a disease and not a normal part of aging.

How is the diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease made?
Alzheimer's disease is difficult to diagnose and is often misdiagnosed. It is made primarily from the symptoms reported by the affected person, by the family members and by a series of tests that evaluate a person's mental function. No brain scan or blood test can make the diagnosis, although the CT scan or MRI may show degeneration of brain tissue that is characteristic of the disease. An important step in diagnosing Alzheimer's disease is to rule out other possible causes of the symptoms which include depression, adverse effect from some medications, excessive consumption of alcohol, thyroid disorders, liver failure, kidney failure, a vitamin deficiency, bleeding inside the skull, and infections that can effect the brain.

What is the treatment for Alzheimer's disease?
There is no cure for Alzheimer's disease. Treatment primarily involves caring for him or her and dealing with the worsening symptoms. Most people in the early stages live at home and are cared for by the family members. Caring for an adult who has become completely dependent can be intensely stressful.

What should the family of an Alzheimer's person consider?
  • Get a diagnosis early
  • Take care of legal and financial planning
  • Learn about the disease
  • Learn how to protect your loved one
  • Look for adult day-care programs, in home assistance, visiting nurses, and delivery of meals
  • Don't neglect your own needs
  • Talk to a support group to try to overcome the difficulty of grieving for a person who is still alive
  • Know when to let go and place your loved one in an appropriate long-term facility

What home aids and medical equipment are available to help a Alzheimer's person?
  • Beds & accessories
  • Body positioners
  • Braces & supports
  • Compression wear
  • Cushions
  • Incontinence
  • Lift out chairs
  • Patient room
  • Patient safety
  • Pressure relief
  • Ramps and lifts
  • Rehabilitation
  • Scooters
  • Urologicals
  • Walking aids
  • Wellness
  • Wheelchairs
  • Travel & vacation equipment

What can be done at home to help a Alzheimer's patient?
In the living quarters hand bars (especially at the tub and toilet), ramps and other aids should also be installed. Occupational and physical therapy should emphasize using the effected limbs and to help improve walking, mobility, eating, dressing, toilet functions, avoiding bed ulcers and improving other basic needs.Early treatment, encouragement, and awareness about the patient's environment are important. The patient and his relatives and friends must understand the nature of the disabilities and the likelihood that progress will occur but will take time, patience, and perseverance.
How to Care for Your Loved Ones