My father is in the moderate severe stage of Alzheimer’s disease. I am fortunate that, at least for now, he is able to remain at home where he is well cared for by my mother. But despite the fact that my Mom has ample respite during the week, I am well aware that, at times, caregiving can be overwhelming and frustrating.
This blog is part of a year-long series aimed at addressing some of the most frequently asked questions we hear from family and adult children on the topics most concerning them regarding their aging parents or loved one. In 2012 Hebrew SeniorLife published the eBook "You & Your Aging Parent: A Family Approach to Lifelong Health, Wellness & Care," a compilation of answers from HSL geriatric experts in response to the many of the most frequently asked questions. We're reposting some of the most popular Q&A posts from our original eBook which was downloaded over 2,000 times. We're also adding new Q&As throughout the series that address topics not originally included in our eBook.
As dementia progresses, brain cells are damaged, causing cognitive symptoms to worsen. While current medications cannot stop disease progression, they may help lessen or stabilize symptoms for a time by boosting certain chemicals involved in carrying messages among the brain's nerve cells. However, these drugs have unwanted side effects, or have little effect in some individuals. Given no cure and limited treatment available, it is no surprise that there is high public interest in complementary and alternative therapies when it comes to treating dementia.
Adults with dementia often feel compelled to walk about. This behavior has routinely been called “wandering” by clinicians, researchers and informal caregivers. About 60 percent of adults with dementia will experience wandering, which most commonly occurs in the middle or later stages of dementia. Wandering can be prompted by a desire to look for something or someone, such as a family member or friend, or by a need to fulfill a former obligation such as going to work. Some adults with dementia express a desire to “go home” even if they are living comfortably in their own homes.
Alzheimer’s disease, a form of dementia, is a chronic brain disease characterized by the progressive deterioration of memory, language, visual perception and activities of daily living.
If you have a loved one with memory problems, it’s important to see a clinician who has expertise in Alzheimer’s to receive a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. That may be the patient’s primary care physician, or the PCP may refer you to a specialist. Neurologists and geriatricians are two types of specialists who diagnose and treat Alzheimer’s disease.
It seems that there has been an explosion of books, websites, and blogs related to Alzheimer’s disease. While getting as much information out there as possible seems a good idea, the question remains, what is worth reading? And how do you know if the information is legitimate. As always, consider the source. In general, government-sponsored websites end in “.gov” and nationally recognized organizations that end in “.org” are often your best bets for timely, accurate information. As for blogs, it is important to take any advice with a grain of salt, so to speak. Nonetheless, some blogs provide useful, practical information and useful for starting discussions online, which is great for caregivers who are at home.
At Hebrew SeniorLife, all of our direct care staff are trained in the “habilitation therapeutic method” when caring for clients with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Habilitation was developed in 1996 by Paul Raia and Joanne Koenig-Coste of the Massachusetts Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association and has been successfully implemented in a variety of care settings nation-wide.
There are many myths surrounding dementia that can obscure our understanding of the issues facing our loved ones who suffer from dementia diseases, such as Alzheimer’s Disease. Here are a few to ponder…
MYTH #1 Dementia is a normal occurrence in aging.
FACT:Dementia is a degenerative brain disease that mainly affects older adults, and is not a normal part of aging. If it were true, then everyone over the age of 65 would have it! Many adults advance into their 80s and 90s without much memory decline.
MYTH #2 Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia that is inherited.
My dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease about five years ago and while there have been many “unfunny” moments (like the day he decided to go for a walk to Foxboro Center at 4 o’clock in the morning in the middle of November). I have found that the use of laughter and humor not only helps me to keep my sanity, but it also seems to help him.