You don’t see it coming. And nobody taps you on the shoulder halfway through Dad’s 72nd birthday dinner and whispers that it’s time to start having the dementia discussion. In fact, it creeps up on you, and one day you look around, and wonder how you ended up where you are, with a parent suffering from dementia, and you’re completely unprepared to deal with it.
What to watch out for:
The first step to the problem solution is problem recognition. Here are some of the most common signs of the onset of Alzheimer’s:
- Asking the same question over and over again, even though it’s already been answered.
- Getting lost somewhere, despite it being a familiar place.
- Lost ability to follow directions, or forgetting directions quickly.
- Confusion regarding recognizing people, keeping track of time, or following trains of thought.
There are, of course, other memory diseases besides dementia that also exhibit some of these same symptoms – but generally, if you’re seeing anything on that list, the most likely culprit is Alzheimer’s.
Beyond the symptoms:
Dementia is a disease that can’t be compared with any other incurable diseases. It can be caused by one or more of any of the degenerative neural disorders that often occur with the onset of old age. As dementia follows its course, it seriously interferes with the life of the individual. Unable to handle driving, or having simple conversations can really start to suck the joy out of living without the proper support group and the proper techniques.
Now, just because you have a parent who suffers from memory loss it does not mean that dementia has set in. Sometimes, it really is just forgetfulness. That’s why doctors typically won’t diagnose dementia unless there are more symptoms besides just memory loss. If you notice your parent calling people by the wrong names, or seeming not to recognize people that they formerly knew, then it may be a good idea to get down to the doctor. But there’s no need for undue worry just because mom forgot it was Tuesday.
What to do:
If you’re caregiver to a parent who is exhibiting the symptoms described herein, it is of course time to go to the doctor. The doctor will do a full physical exam, followed by a series of tests designed to measure brain function, and perhaps a CAT scan as well to determine whether brain functioning appears to be normal. You may want to be on hand, as well. The doctor will have questions about your parent’s medical history, including things they may not remember (since after all, you are visiting the doctor for memory loss), like medications, diet habits, exercise habits, and other details regarding their lifestyle.
If it turns out that your parent does have Alzheimer’s, there are now drug options available that can help. Your doctor may prescribe one or more of these, and while they won’t reverse the process, they certainly slow it down, and can significantly improve the quality of life of someone in the early stages.
Talk about care giving plans:
Being a caregiver for a parent suffering from Alzheimer’s is not something people want to do. And it’s not because they don’t want to care for their loved one, but because they don’t have the training to cope with their condition. You will be compelled to learn everything there is to know about medication, exercise, communication tips and more; and since you might have a family of your own, you won’t be able to manage all these tasks.
Putting your loved one in a nursing home is a tough choice. And yet it can be the best choice you can make. Forest Healthcare can help you settle on the best plan for you and your parent. Nowadays, nursing homes and assisted living facilities are extremely comfortable. They come with a wealth of stimulating activities and programs meant to help the patient stay connected to the real world for as long as possible.