When presented with a life-changing diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease for a loved one, you can have many questions as a family member. You may have noticed the early signs and found it daunting thinking about the next steps and the impact they will have on those affected.
As a family member of someone with Alzheimer’s, you do not need to feel alone. More than 6 million people live with Alzheimer’s in the United States, with a projected rise to 13 million by 2050.
What is Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s is a brain disorder that starts with microscopic changes in the brain. Nerve cells or neurons connect with each other to form communication networks involved in thinking, remembering, and learning.
Scientists believe plaques, which are deposits of a protein fragment called beta-amyloid, and tangles, which are twisted fibers of another protein called tau, block or disrupt the communication between nerve cells. The damage to nerve cells leads to irreversible changes in the brain.
How Does Alzheimer’s Present?
Alzheimer’s progresses slowly with people forgetting recent events but can sometimes remember past events. The symptoms of Alzheimer’s in its early stages may be mild. As the disease progresses, people experience more symptoms.
We all forget things from time to time. The following mild to progressive symptoms can present in people with Alzheimer’s, but they are not a diagnosis:
- Difficulty with ordinary daily activities such as getting dressed
- Experience mood swings such as anger, anxiety, and depression
- Forgetfulness and memory failure
- Confusion and frustration
- Poor judgment
- Poor hygiene and hygiene issues
- Poor coordination
- Feeling disoriented, agitated, wandering, or getting lost easily
- Lack of interest
- Trouble focusing
- Trouble communicating
If you notice these symptoms in a loved one, consult a doctor to determine the cause.
Ways to Deal with Alzheimer’s as a Family?
The effects of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis are challenging for anyone, whether you as a family member will be the primary caregiver or not. By sharing your concerns and finding motivation, solutions, and resources together, you will be more equipped to cope.
Talk About It
Start the conversation with your family about how this illness affects a person’s life. Be aware of what changes to expect as the disease progresses.
Hold discussions about how you can help while giving them a sense of independence. Talking about the illness together helps everyone involved prepare for what is ahead with patience and understanding.
Getting support from your family, friends, and health care providers can help ease you into understanding the world of Alzheimer’s disease and bring much-needed resources and advice.
Family and friends may be eager to help and show support but not know precisely how. Keep in touch with and update family and friends to let them know when and how you need help.
Be Prepared for the Changes
Learn more about the disease and know what to expect as the disease takes its course and symptoms progress. As a family member, you can plan and prepare for any changes when they happen. With progression, more time, energy, and care may mean looking for home care options, health care aides, or care living.
Keep Them as Healthy as Possible
Supporting their health will make them feel better and help them with memory and behavior issues. Taking the correct medication, eating right, and exercising ensure physical well-being.
Take Care of Yourself
As a caregiver and family member, you may be feeling a lot of stress or sadness. Emotions are normal and expected, but to prevent burnout and depression, remember to take care of yourself. Your health and well-being will help you be there for your loved ones when they need you.
Help for Family Members
Not all cases of Alzheimer’s are the same. In some instances, caregiver support may include respite care or memory support.
However, with its progressive nature, it will become less likely for the person with Alzheimer’s to take care of themselves. As a family member, you may need to decide about long-term care at home or consider Fox Trail Senior Living. Let us guide your loved ones through their day-to-day life with a compassionate approach.