Archive for the ‘Alzheimer’s & Dementia Care’ Category

What to Do Next After Alzheimer’s Diagnosis

A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s can be life changing for a senior and those close to them.  If your loved one is dealing with memory loss, they are not alone. One in three seniors have dementia and over 5.1 million Americans are thought to be living with the disease.

An Alzheimer’s diagnosis affects the entire family.  According to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, it is estimated that one to four family members act as caregivers for each individual with Alzheimer’s disease.     

While receiving a diagnosis of dementia can prove to be a difficult and emotional time, it is important to consider what to do next.  There are certain steps you will want to take following diagnosis to plan for your loved one’s future so that they can live independently and comfortably with Alzheimer’s for as long as possible.

Get Informed

As the saying goes, “knowledge is power” and when it comes to coping with a complex diagnosis like dementia, educating yourself about the disease should be a top priority.  Ensure that you understand the stages of Alzheimer’s onset so you have a good idea of what to expect as your loved one’s symptoms change and progress.  You can also reach out to organizations such as the Alzheimer’s Association for education and support.

Deal with Emotions

After receiving the diagnosis, you and your loved ones may be experiencing a roller coaster of different feelings that range from shock and disbelief, to fear, sadness, and even relief.  Each of these reactions is normal and to be expected. Take care of your emotional needs and find healthy ways to deal with your feelings such as by journaling or talking with a friend.  Surrounding yourself with a strong support system is crucial at this stage.

Keep in mind that emotional support is important for your loved one as well.  According to the groundbreaking “Best Friends” approach to Alzheimer’s caregiving established by leading dementia experts Virginia Bell, M.S.W. and David Troxel, M.P.H., a loving, positive atmosphere is key to helping those with memory loss feel safe and secure.

Decide Who You Want to Tell

After you start adjusting, you may want to inform family and friends about your loved one’s diagnosis.  Telling others your loved one has dementia can be a difficult thing to do.  Explaining Alzheimer’s disease to children may seem especially challenging, but there are many resources to help grandkids and teens understand dementia.  If you feel hesitant to share the news with other people, keep in mind that there is no right or wrong way of deciding who to tell and when.

Plan for the Future

If remaining at home is no longer a viable option given your loved one’s dementia symptoms, it may be time to consider a move to a senior living community, assisted living, or a long-term care center where they can receive personalized help with day-to-day tasks such as dressing, bathing, and medication monitoring.  A person-centered memory care program that takes into account each individual’s life history, cultural heritage, current abilities and interests can help your loved one feel supported and cared for in the face of physical and mental changes.

Build a Care Team

As you begin to make decisions about treatment, medications, and living arrangements following diagnosis, you will need a team of trained health care professionals supporting you.  Your relationship with your loved one’s doctor is very important.  Find out if the diagnosing physician will continue to manage your loved one’s care going forward, and if not, find a primary doctor who has experience treating Alzheimer’s.  Your care team may also include nurses, home care aides, social workers and other professionals who have specialized training in supporting the needs of people with dementia.

Manage stress

Staying active through exercise and a healthy diet can slow the pace of memory loss and help those with Alzheimer’s maintain a good quality of life. Keeping everyday activities as routine as possible can also help manage stress and stave off symptoms such as aggression or sundowning behavior.  If in a safe and structured environment, many seniors with dementia are able to continue doing many of the things they enjoy without letting their illness get in the way, such as taking a walk, going shopping, or engaging in physical activities like Tai Chi.

Elmcroft’s Heartland Village offers a memory care program utilizing the Best Friends® approach.  Built around each individual’s life history, cultural heritage, current abilities, and interests, this “person-centered” approach allows us to care for our residents as we would a beloved family member.  The special associates at Elmcroft improve the quality of life for your loved one, not only by providing assistance with daily living activities, but also by involving them in structured programming that is meaningful and purposeful.

Beyond Alzheimer’s: 10 Types of Dementia

People often think dementia and Alzheimer’s are one and the same.  They are not.  Dementia is the broad category for health conditions that cause memory loss or impair an individual’s cognitive abilities to the degree that daily life is affected.  Each type of dementia has its own unique symptoms and struggles.  Some types of dementia have a more profound impact on a person’s ability to maintain their independence and health.

10 Most Common Types of Dementia

There are a variety of diseases that are considered to be a form of dementia. Some are better known than others.  The most common types of dementia include:

1.     Alzheimer’s Disease: Alzheimer’s accounts for 60 to 80% of all cases of dementia. It is by far the most common type of dementia. While researchers haven’t been successful in determining a cause or a treatment, there are a few medications that may help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease or manage some of the more common symptoms.

2.     Parkinson’s Dementia: Adults in more advanced stages of Parkinson’s often develop dementia that leads to memory loss and poor judgment. This form of dementia is one that senior living providers are increasingly familiar with. Because the disease often strikes younger people, a spouse may be unable to juggle the demands of caring for their loved one while working and raising young children. They turn to senior care providers for help.

3.     Vascular Dementia: Next to Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia is the most common type of memory loss. Most often it is the result of a stroke, diabetes or from advanced heart disease. As the obesity rates in this country continue to rise, so too do the rates of stroke and heart disease that contribute to vascular dementia.

4.     Lewy-Body Disease (LBD): Dementia with Lewy Body is the result of protein deposits that build up on nerve cells in the brain stem. They cause problems with cognition, muscle rigidity, behavioral issues and tremors. At present, there are no treatments for Lewy Body disease.

5.     Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome (WKS): This dementia is caused by a vitamin B thiamine deficiency. If caught early enough, WKS can be treated with thiamine replacement therapy. Alcoholics, advanced cancer patients, long-term dialysis patients and people with malnutrition are the most common patients. Symptoms include short-term memory loss, confusion and hallucinations.

6.     Huntington’s Disease: This progressive form of dementia is the result of a gene defect that runs in families. Huntington’s causes mood swings, impaired judgment, speech problems and depression. While there is no cure for the disease, there are some medications that may help improve the movement disorders and psychiatric problems it creates.

7.     Frontotemporal Dementia: Forms of this dementia impair the front and side sections of the brain fall under this category.  Pick’s disease is the most common type.  The damage from Frontotemporal forms of dementia results in memory loss and speech problems.  It also causes a loss of inhibition that often leads to behavioral challenges that are difficult for caregivers to safely manage.

8.     Creutzfeldt-Jacob Dementia (CJD): Also known as mad cow disease, CJD is a very rare degenerative neurological disorder.  It is a fast moving form of dementia that causes a loss of coordination, muscle twitches, impaired speech, memory loss and confusion.

9.     Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus (NPH): This type of dementia occurs when cerebrospinal fluid builds up in the brain’s cavities.  The resulting pressure on the brain interrupts functional abilities such as walking, talking, bladder control, and cognition.  NPH is one of the few forms of dementia that may be able to be treated.  A long, thin tube called a shunt is inserted between the brain and the abdomen.  It helps with drainage.  While the shunt may improve mobility, it doesn’t help with memory loss or bladder problems.

10.    Mixed Dementia: Finally, we come to mixed dementia.  It is actually a combination of several forms of dementia.  Many experts believe that the majority of people who have dementia actually have mixed dementia.  The most common combination is Alzheimer’s disease and vascular  dementia.

While most types of dementia have few real treatment options, there are many clinical trials taking place across the country.  If you or a senior loved one has been diagnosed with some form of dementia, you might consider participating in one.  Trial Match from the national Alzheimer’s Association can help you locate one near you.

Raising Awareness on World Alzheimer’s Day

World Alzheimer’s Day is a day set aside each year to educate the public on the growing epidemic of Alzheimer’s disease. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 5 million people in this country live with the disease. Every 67 seconds someone in the U.S. develops Alzheimer’s. There are things each of us can do to help with the fight.

How You Can Help Fight Alzheimer’s Disease

1.     Let Your Voice Be Heard. Our elected officials need to hear that Alzheimer’s research and the funding for it are a priority for their constituents. Let them know how you feel by email or through social media. You can contact your U.S. Senators and U.S. House of Representatives by email here. Don’t overlook the effectiveness of Twitter for having your voice heard. Use these links to find the twitter handles for your U.S. House of Representatives and your U.S. Senators. Don’t forget to add the hashtags #WalkAlz and #FightAlz.

2.     Help Educate Your Community. Work with your local Alzheimer’s Association to help spread the word and raise money for the fight. Each local chapter sponsors a yearly “Walk to End Alzheimer’s” that you can participate in. Use your zip code to find your local chapter. You can also write a “Letter to the Editor” to your local papers on World Alzheimer’s Day (September 21) or during National Alzheimer’s Month in November.

3.     Investigate Clinical Trials. If someone you love currently lives with Alzheimer’s, investigating clinical trials near you can help further research. These trials help researchers continue to learn what does and doesn’t work in the treatment and prevention of the disease. They are conducted at no cost to participants and some even reimburse for travel expenses. A good site to use to find a clinical trial near you is the Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral Center at the National Institute on Aging. You can also call 1-800-438-4380 for information on studies near you.

Learn more about Alzheimer’s disease and how specialized training programs like Best FriendsTM can help support those living with it by visiting our website or calling the Elmcroft Senior Living community nearest you.

Best FriendsTM is a trademark of Health Professions Press, Inc.