By Denise Pott, LCSW, Assistance Home Care
Many of us fear age related dementia, and worry every time we misplace the car keys. Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. Misplacing the car keys is nothing to worry about in itself, as dementia typically develops over time.
Here are the warning signs:
• Memory loss that disrupts daily life
• Challenges in planning or solving problems
• Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure
• Confusion with time or place
• Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
• New problems with words in speaking or writing
• Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
• Decreased or poor judgement
• Withdrawal from work or social activities
• Changes in mood or personality
If you notice any of these changes, you should immediately meet with a doctor for a thorough evaluation. The good news is that these symptoms may not be due to Alzheimer’s disease, but to a reversible condition. Many treatable conditions can bring on changes in memory and behavior, including thyroid disease, urinary tract infection, subdural hematoma, meningitis, lyme disease, or even depression. While these conditions can be serious, with treatment it is possible for individuals with these conditions to return to normal functioning.
Unfortunately, some patients will be diagnosed with a progressive type of dementia. Of these, the most common is Alzheimers Disease, although there are many other types. Treatments may differ for dementias of different causes, so early detection is important. Other benefits of early detection include having more time to plan for the future and to allow the person with dementia to be actively involved in making decisions about their future care and treatment, living options, and financial decisions.
Receiving a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease can be devastating for the patient and for his or her family. Fear of what may happen can bring on anxiety and depression. As the disease progresses, there may be disagreements about caregiving or the best course of action. In many families, the burden of care falls primarily on one family member, who may develop resentment if they feel that others aren’t helping or doing their part. As mentioned, family members may disagree about senior care options and have difficulty determining when more care is needed or when, and if, nursing home care may be best.
First, Memory Care Home Solutions (www.memorycarehs.org) offers free in home personalized caregiver support and training.
These services are designed to:
- Create a safer home environment for the person with dementia
- Improve communication with the person suffering from memory loss
- Make your home safer
- Modify daily activities to promote independence for the person suffering from memory loss
- Reduce caregiver stress
The staff at Memory Care Home Solutions will connect you to community senior care resources to specifically meet your needs. Afterwards, in order to ensure your continued success, they will provide three follow-up telephone conference calls to further assist you with caring for your loved one at home.
The Alzheimer’s Association and its St. Louis Chapter (www.alzstl.org) is a great place to learn more about the disease and its treatment, and lists of up-to-date resources are posted on the website. The organization also offers great programs such as education and support groups, Alzheimer’s awareness and advocacy programs, and provides caregiver resources including respite care and assistance in locating home care resources.
The Alzheimer’s Association also sponsors The Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Participation in these walks not only helps to raise funds and awareness of the disease, but can provide a place for families to come together. For families caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, or a family who has lost a loved one to the disease, it is highly recommended that they form a Walk Team in honor of their loved one. Family Walk Teams brings family and friends together for a common purpose, and puts them into contact with others who have shared common experiences with caregiving. One participant who had been caring for his wife said “I don’t have to say a word; all these people understand what I’ve been going through.” To register your Family Walk Team visit the walk website at www.alz.org/stl/walk.
Families facing a health care crisis, or those who are struggling with caregiving or locating the correct resources, may wish to consult with an Aging Life Care Professional. (www.aginglifecare.org). These are individuals with training and experience in working with older adults and their families to assess their needs and identify options. They are familiar with programs and resources and can assist the family in developing a plan of care for the patient, which addresses both immediate and long term care needs. They strive to help families work together to solve problems and make solid care decisions.
If you or someone you know is a caregiver for a person with dementia, we encourage you to take advantage of these programs and resources to help reduce the burden of caregiving. As a caregiver, its important not to try to do everything yourself; its okay to reach out for help. All three of the organizations listed above can help direct families to some of the best in-home senior care services that St. Louis has to offer.
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