Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia. According to the National Institute on Aging, it affects approximately 5 million Americans with the first symptoms appearing in most people when they hit their mid-60s. It is due to amyloid plaques and tangled bundles in the brain that cause decreased synapses—the loss of connection between nerve cells. This destructive process begins in the hippocampus section of the brain, the part responsible for forming memories, and progressively spreads.
The signs of Alzheimer’s vary from person to person. In many, the initial symptom is memory loss. For others, they may exhibit increased difficulty with communication or impaired reasoning. They eventually develop difficulty with space and time—frequently forgetting where they are or the present circumstances. Eventually, this may result in the inability to recognize family or friends. Behavioral changes, including paranoia, become evident. Changes in vision and in the brain can result in hallucinations.
If your parent is exhibiting any of these symptoms, make an appointment with their primary health care provider. There are numerous diseases that cause memory loss, including mild cognitive impairment—a disease that is often reversible. Even though Alzheimer’s is progressive, an early diagnosis allows families the opportunity to plan for the future. Your loved one may also be able to participate in clinical trials. Scientists currently need 70,000 volunteers for the research they would like to conduct on this disease.
While studies are still being conducted, many researchers believe that there is a link between a healthy diet, physical activity, social engagement, maintaining an active mind and Alzheimer’s. To this end, help your parent eat healthy by providing a wealth of fruits and vegetables, lean protein and fish such as salmon that is high in omega-3 fatty acids. Keep their diet low in saturated and hydrogenated fats. Help them stay active by including 30 minutes of exercise in their daily schedule. Tai chi and yoga have been found to contribute to strength, stamina, flexibility and mindful awareness.
While there is no known treatment, there are recommendations for managing Alzheimer’s as well as medications that may help with certain behavioral problems and slow down the loss of communication skills and memory. The common behavioral issues associated with Alzheimer’s include wandering, sleeplessness and anxiety.
Caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s can be both heartwarming and heart wrenching. It’s important to learn as much as you can about the disease so you know what to expect and what has worked for others in this situation. To that end, finding a support group for both you, as a caregiver, and your parent can help both of you receive emotional support and knowledge from other’s traversing through the same common ground.
And remember that, although your loved one is your priority, it’s important to care for yourself as well. Respite care is an essential concern that should be addressed early. If you do not have friends or family that can pitch in a few days a week, consider obtaining the services of a senior care provider. They have cared for countless seniors with this condition and know effective means of communication as well as the specific concerns that are found with those suffering from Alzheimer’s.
If you or an aging loved one are considering senior care in River Oaks, TX, please call the caring staff at At Your Side Home Care. We will answer all of your senior care questions. Call today: (832) 271-1600.
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