November will be Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, and many are already taking to the streets to participate in their local Walk to End Alzheimer’s®, the world’s largest event to raise awareness funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research. Whether your family has been touched by this disease or you are a caregiver, you know how important it is to have answers.
The following are facts about Alzheimer’s disease as supplied by The Alzheimer’s Association:
1. The numbers.
- Alzheimer’s disease is the only disease in the top 10 causes of death in the U.S. that cannot be prevented, slowed or cured
- 1 in 9 people, or about 6+ million Americans, live with Alzheimer’s disease
- 11+ million Americans provide unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s disease
- By 2050, the number of people aged 65 and older with Alzheimer’s disease is projected to reach 12.7 million
- 1 in 3 seniors dies with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia
2. Alzheimer’s is a disease, dementia is not.
Having the facts about Alzheimer’s disease means understanding what it is. Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative brain disease caused by complex brain changes following cell damage. It leads to dementia symptoms that gradually worsen over time.
Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. Dementia describes a group of symptoms associated with a decline in memory, reasoning or other thinking skills. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia.
3. There are early signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease that should not be ignored.
- Disruption of daily life (forgetting dates, events, or recently learned information)
- Challenge in planning or solving problems (difficulty with numbers: paying bills, following recipes)
- Can’t complete familiar tasks (can’t organize grocery list, or drive to familiar location)
- Confusion with time or place (loses track of seasons or the passing of time, forgets where they are and how they got there)
- Trouble understanding visual images (problems with vision, balance or reading; can’t judge distance or determine color/contrast)
- New problems with words in speaking or writing (problems joining conversation, struggles with naming familiar objects)
- Misplacing things (losing items, leaving them in wrong places, accusing others of theft)
- Poor judgment (makes bad decisions, has problems with money, poor grooming)
- Withdrawal from social situations (pulls back from hobbies, activities or engagements)
- Changes in mood & personality (confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful, easily upset)
If you notice any of these signs, don’t ignore them. Schedule an appointment with a physician.
4. There are 3 general stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
Having the facts about Alzheimer’s disease means understanding how the disease progresses.
- Early-stage (mild). A person may still drive, work and be part of social activities. Despite this, the person may notice they are having memory lapses, such as forgetting familiar words or the location of everyday objects.
- Middle stage. More pronounced dementia symptoms. The person may confuse words, get frustrated or angry, and act in unexpected ways, such as refusing to bathe. It can be difficult to express thoughts and perform routine tasks without assistance. In this stage, the person living with Alzheimer’s disease can still participate in daily activities with assistance.
- Late stage (severe). Individuals lose the ability to respond to their environment, to carry on a conversation and, eventually, to control movement. They may still say words or phrases, but communicating pain becomes difficult. Significant personality changes may take place and individuals need extensive care.
5. Certain lifestyle habits can help reduce risk of cognitive decline.
- Exercise. Walk. Do chair aerobics. Bicycle. Whatever elevates your heart rate and increases blood flow to the brain and body.
- Challenge your brain. Plan a game that makes you think strategically, such as bridge. Build furniture. Work on a jigsaw puzzle. Do Sudoku
- Stop smoking. Stopping smoking, no matter your age, returns your risk factors to the same level as someone who never smoked.
- Find some balance. Tai Chi helps with balance as a tool against falling. Wear a helmet if you’re riding a bike. So protect your noggin!
- Eat healthy foods. The key is low fat, lots of veggies and colorful fruits.
- Keep learning. Join a class. Learn a foreign language. Earn an advanced degree online.
- Avoid stress. Practice being mindful. Do deep breathing exercises. Meditate. And just let it go—your brain will thank you.
Memory Care could be the right choice.
When you have the facts about Alzheimer’s disease, you can be more aware of when it might be time for more support. Clearwater Living’s memory care neighborhoods provide specialized care for people living with Alzheimer’s or another form of memory impairment. Our holistic approach to care and Empowered Living program caters to residents’ unique needs and involves the family at every step.
At Clearwater Living, your family is our family.
In memory support at Clearwater Living, we aim to create an atmosphere that empowers the individual to engage with their life, family, and community in a meaningful way. Call the community nearest you today!