Not sure if you need Alzheimer's or dementia care?
Do you know the 10 early signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s? If they reflect your behavior or your loved one’s, see your doctor right away. Early detection and treatment makes a difference.
Whether you’ve been diagnosed with some form of dementia or care for someone who has, it might feel like you’ve just gotten off the main highway and veered onto an unfamiliar road with no GPS service. Your life will change, but there is a lot you can do to prepare and “pack” for this trip so you’ll have what you need as you go.
You’re probably already experiencing a range of emotions. Relief that the diagnosis explains the symptoms you’ve noticed. Anger that your life is taking a different course from what you’d planned. Fear about how this will affect you and your family. These are all common feelings. Knowing that you don’t have to brave it alone and planning ahead can help ease the way.
When memory loss and the decline of other mental abilities are severe enough to interfere with daily life, it is called dementia. Dementia, itself, isn’t a disease but rather a group of symptoms that affect mental tasks, like reasoning and memory. There are many causes of dementia. The most common is Alzheimer’s disease, which accounts for some 60–80% of dementia cases. As dementia symptoms increase, the person living with it will need more help.
Not all dementias are alike. While Alzheimer’s disease accounts for most cases, other diseases, disorders, and medical conditions can cause similar symptoms. Dementia can be caused by diseases like Huntington's or Parkinson’s and from head injury or stroke. Unlike Alzheimer’s, certain forms of dementia can be reversed, so getting proper medical diagnosis and treatment is important.
In the early stages of the disease, a person with Alzheimer’s may ask the same questions over and over or have difficulty performing tasks they once did easily (like playing a card game or following a recipe). As the disease advances, the person with the disease may become disorientated and experience changes in mood and behavior with increasing confusion. For example, a person with Alzheimer’s might get lost in their own neighborhood, forget to pay the phone bill, become confused about how to use the phone, or stop doing activities that they once enjoyed. These sorts of changes are often the first sign of Alzheimer’s. Though there is no cure for Alzheimer’s yet, there are medications and treatments for its symptoms.
Memory loss, difficulty with executive function, such as planning or problem solving, confusion about time or place, and trouble completing familiar tasks are all common signs of dementia. Many people assume that these symptoms are a normal part of aging. They are not. This misperception can delay being diagnosed—and treated to slow the progression. If you have questions or concerns about your own behavior or a loved one’s, don’t wait to learn more. Make an appointment to see your doctor right away for an evaluation.
Caregiving is demanding — and it's normal to need a break. Seeking help does not make you a failure. Remember that respite services benefit the person with dementia as well as the caregiver.