May 13, 2013 News Comments Off on TAKING CARE OF OUR ELDERLY
Should we worry? Lately I have experienced a great number of persons inquiring about their elderly parent or family member, who had left home and not returned, to determine if they had joined the ranks of the unknown, who died recently.
Let’s try to put this in perspective. According to reports from the National Institute of Health, about four million people have Alzheimer’s disease in the United States, I know that one will say we are not in the USA, however, studies are done to gather information and is usually applied globally.
According to the National Institute of Health, about three percent of people between the ages of 65 and 74 have Alzheimer’s. This incidence dramatically increases with advancing age http://life.familyeducation.com/aging-parents/caretaking/49077.html; nearly half of the population over 85 years has the disease. Most people live an average of eight to 10 years from the onset of symptoms.
Yes, it is something to be on guard for, especially as your parents enter their mid-80s, but it certainly isn’t something that every older person has to fear lurking around the corner.
Dementia is actually an umbrella term (literally meaning “without mind”) that refers to the progressive loss of thinking, judgment, ability to focus, and ability to learn. More than half of the dementia cases are caused by Alzheimer’s, a disease named after German physician Alois Alzheimer, who discovered it back in 1906. No one is exactly sure what causes Alzheimer’s, but genetic factors are definitely in the mix.
The second leading cause of dementia is multi-infarct dementia caused by the death of brain cells due to mini-strokes that block blood supply. These small, successive strokes often go unnoticed as they chip away at the brain. People with high blood pressure and diabetes are at considerable risk for this type of dementia.
The Warning Signs
Just remember everybody gets distracted. Everybody forgets a name, and everybody has misplaced his or her keys at one time or another. And some of us have even forgotten where we parked the car. So if all this is normal, how do you know when forgetfulness slides into the world of dementia?
The Alzheimer’s Association has developed a list of the top 10 warning signs of Alzheimer’s. If your elder parent or family member experiences several of these symptoms, it’s time to get him or her to a doctor. One way you can be very helpful when you’ve scheduled your parent for a checkup for dementia is to make a copy of this list and write up the behaviors exhibited by your parent under each symptom. The behaviors that you note should not be typical lifelong behaviors of your elder. (My kids, for instance, certainly wouldn’t list losing car keys or forgetting their date of birth as a sign for me!)
The Top 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease (from the Alzheimer’s Association)
1. Memory loss affecting job skills. Frequently forgets
assignments, colleague’s names; appears confused for no reason.
2. Difficulty performing familiar tasks. Easily
distracted; forgets what he or she was doing or why. Might prepare a meal and then forget to serve it, or that he or she even made it.
3.Problems with language. Forgets simple words or
substitutes inappropriate words; doesn’t make sense.
4. Disorientation to time and place. May become lost on
his or her own street; doesn’t know where he or she is, how he or she got there, or how to get back home.
5. Poor or decreased judgment. Usually exhibited
through wearing inappropriate clothing, or poor grooming. Forgets to wear a coat when it’s cold; wears a bathrobe to the store.
6. Problems with abstract thinking. Exhibits trouble
with numbers; can no longer make simple calculations.
7. Misplaces things. Not only loses things, but puts things
in inappropriate places, such as putting a purse in the freezer or a wristwatch in a sugar bowl. Has no idea how the items got there.
8. Mood and behavior changes. Exhibits more rapid
mood swings for no apparent reason.
9. Changes in personality. Dramatic change in
personality; for example, someone who was easygoing now appears extremely uptight. Becoming suspicious and fearful are commonly reported.
10. Loss of initiative. Becomes extremely disinterested and
uninvolved in areas that he or she used to enjoy.
The most important thing is not to deny that your loved one may need special attention or medical intervention rather than say they are old, they have lived their life, they are big and it’s ok. There are any things that can be done to ensure the elder remain safe, and denial is not one.
“Oh, crazy me; I’d lose my own head if it weren’t attached!”
“Of course I remember that—I was just joking.”
“Yes, I feel great, thanks.”
Anyone who has a family member or friend diagnosed or experiencing with early-stage dementia or Alzheimer’s has heard these phrases, and many similar ones.
One of the trickiest aspects of early-stage cognition impairment isn’t necessarily the disease itself—it’s the denial.
Denial is, first and foremost, a coping mechanism—rooted deep in the human psyche. It taps into our most primal survival instincts, attempting to reassure our own feelings of normalcy and belonging in the communitywide collective we call life.
Many people who live with early-stage dementia can still drive their cars or ride their bicycles, have logical conversations, recite multiple phone numbers and addresses, and function rather well in daily life. To them, things seem pretty much OK, so they find it hard to see what all the fuss is about and why the families may be concerned.
They naturally wonder why others are harping on them, as if they aren’t capable of remembering a simple task! They misunderstand their family’s reactions, they doubt their own diagnoses and they reject their assistance. (It’s not surprising that, during the earliest phases of a diagnosis, many older adults may insist on a change of physician at least once, despite all test results.)
I have the personal experience with my dear and loving mother who is now 91 years of age.
However, there comes a time when the cognitive cracks begin to show—to them. They realize they’ve somehow forgotten a crucial responsibility, overnight. They realize that they’ve eaten breakfast twice today, failing to register the first time. Tomorrow, they might realize they can recall minute details from 1983, but can’t seem to remember the current route to their market that they visited every week since childhood.
Then, a close family member suddenly reacts very strangely to something they’ve said, leaving them with the eerie, foreboding feeling that something is obviously amiss, but they’re not sure what it is. It is time that we understand that they are not just “old and own way” but rather experiencing a difficult change of life. (Dawn Stewart)
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