Alzheimer’s Awareness Month
November 21, 2019
In 1983, President Ronald Reagan designated November as National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month to spread awareness for Alzheimer’s disease and make it known to those who suffer from this disease and to their caregivers. The Alzheimer’s Association stated that when this month of awareness was created, there were less than two million people diagnosed with this disease. Today, that number has grown to five million, making Alzheimer’s disease the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.
What Is Alzheimer’s Disease?
There are several types of dementia, but Alzheimer’s is the most common form, accounting for 60-80 percent of all cases. Alzheimer’s disease leads to memory, thinking and behavior problems. Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, which causes those who are diagnosed with this disease to get worse over time and eventually get to the point where a person can no longer perform daily tasks.
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s
It is important to understand the symptoms of Alzheimer’s so the disease can be caught early on.
- Memory Loss – People may forget things they’ve learned as well as dates and events. They may also ask for the same information repeatedly.
- Trouble Planning or Solving Problems – You may notice a loved one taking longer to complete tasks they used to be able to do much quicker. You may also notice they have trouble following directions, even a simple recipe becomes complex.
- Confusion with Time or Place – People with Alzheimer’s often lose track of time. They also forget where they are and even how they got there.
- Misplacing Things & Unable to Retrace Steps – As people forget dates and events, they may also start to misplace objects. Although they would be able to retrace their steps in the past and find what they were looking for, that is no longer the case. This may lead them to accuse others of stealing because they can no longer find what’s theirs.
- Mood & Personality Changes – Because of the changes that are going on in their mind, you may notice major shifts in mood and personality. They may become confused, suspicious and even depressed.
Stages of Alzheimer’s
Doctors have determined three different stages of Alzheimer’s:
- Mild Alzheimer’s Disease (early stage): a person may function independently – he or she may still drive, work and be part of social activities. However, this person may feel as if he or she is having memory lapses, such as forgetting familiar words or the location of everyday objects. Common symptoms in the early stage include:
- Problems coming up with the right word or name
- Trouble remembering names when introduced to new people
- Challenges performing tasks in social or work settings
- Forgetting material that one has just read
- Losing or misplacing a valuable object
- Increasing trouble with planning or organizing
- Moderate Alzheimer’s Disease (middle stage): is typically the longest stage and can last for many years. At this stage, the person suffering with Alzheimer’s will require a greater level of care. Some symptoms during this stage include:
- Forgetfulness of events or about one’s own personal history
- Feeling moody or withdrawn, especially in socially or mentally challenging situations
- Being unable to recall their own address or telephone number or the high school/college they graduated from
- Confusion about where they are or what day it is
- The need for help choosing proper clothing for the season or the occasion
- Trouble controlling bladder and bowels in some individuals
- Changes in sleep patterns, such as sleeping during the day and becoming restless at night
- An increased risk of wandering and becoming lost
- Personality and behavioral changes, including suspiciousness and delusions or compulsive, repetitive behavior like handwringing or tissue shredding
- Severe Alzheimer’s Disease (late stage): in this stage, individuals lose the ability to respond to their environment, to carry on a conversation and, eventually, lose control of movement. As their memory skills worsen, significant personality trait changes can take place and individuals need extensive help with daily activities. The symptoms in this stage can include:
- Need round-the-clock assistance with daily activities and personal care
- Lose awareness of recent experiences, as well as of their current surroundings
- Experience changes in physical abilities, including the ability to walk, sit and, eventually, swallow
- Have increasing difficulty communicating
- Become vulnerable to infections, especially pneumonia
Is There a Cure for Alzheimer’s Disease?
Even with the advancements with the current medical field, there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. However, researchers have found multiple treatments that can help prevent the progression of Alzheimer’s, giving you a longer time with your loved one as you know them to be. And to this day, researchers are constantly looking for new treatments and a cure for this horrible disease.
Help for Caregivers
HRMC understands the struggle caregivers go through when taking care of your loved one who is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. HRMC’s home health and hospice staff can connect you to local and area resources for support. Call (605) 353-6520 for more information. The Alzheimer’s Association is also a valuable resource and can be reached by calling the 24/7 Helpline at (800) 272-3900 or visiting www.alz.org.
HRMC Community Hospice Help
Taking care of your loved one all by yourself is hard work, and HRMC wants you to know that you don’t have to do it alone. Hospice services for those who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease are available. And utilizing hospice doesn’t mean you are giving up on your loved one or that you love him or her any less. Hospice isn’t about dying – it’s about living. The goal is to keep the individual comfortable and as alert as possible, maximizing the quality of life for the individual’s remaining days in their chosen environment. The hospice team also works with the caregiver and whole family to help relieve the stress of taking care of your loved and it allows you to be able to enjoy and cherish the time you have left with your loved one.
If you or a loved one has a terminal illness and want to know more about HRMC’s hospice services, ask your health care provider, contact us online or call HRMC’s hospice at (605) 353-6520.
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