Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia affect 47.5 million people around the world, a number that is projected to triple by 2050.
While deaths from heart disease, HIV/AIDS and stroke declined between 2000 and 2010, deaths from Alzheimer’s and dementia increased by 68 percent.
Dementia is a term used to describe a group of symptoms associated with progressive deficits in mental faculties severe enough to interfere with daily functioning. Language, memory, perception, emotional behavior/personality and abstract thinking/judgment can all be affected. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, accounting for between 60 and 80 percent of all dementia cases, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Damage to the brain begins 10 to 20 years prior to the initial display of symptoms, and symptoms progressively worsen over time. There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.
Tips for Family Caregivers Caring for a Loved One with Dementia
- Be patient. Always address the person by name when speaking to them. Speak slowly, use simple words and maintain eye contact.
- Be consistent. Alzheimer’s patients respond best to a steady routine. Incorporate mental or social engagement into that routine as much as possible.
- Explain. If you go out (e.g., to a doctors’ appointment), tell the person where you are, why you are there, and when you will be returning home.
- Approach carefully. Approaching a person from the rear can startle him or her.
- Avoid tasks that rely on short-term memory. Offer only two options for the person to choose between and only ask one question at a time.
- Promote calm. Turn off overhead lights, play soothing music and/or give the person comforting objects like stuffed animals or a blanket.
- Distract. If the person becomes agitated, distract them by assigning them a simple chore like folding towels.
- Buy duplicate items. Dementia patients often misplace items like keys or wallets; keeping a spare handy is a good idea.
Signs That You May Need Help Providing Care
Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia can be challenging, tiresome, time-consuming, and deflating. In fact, 61 percent of family caregivers report significant emotional stress and 43 percent report physical stress. As dementia progresses, individuals require increased levels of care and support. Many require 24-hour safety monitoring, keep unusual or reversed sleep-wake schedules, and become Many require 24-hour safety monitoring, keep unusual or reversed schedules, and become completely dependent on another for assistance with daily activities such as eating and dressing.
You may be balancing family, career, and social responsibilities on top of being the primary caregiver. Often, personal time is de-prioritized to the detriment of your physical, emotional, and mental health. If you find that you are awake and providing care at all hours of the day and night, have difficulty with physical tasks such as transferring, or feel unequipped to respond to behavioral changes, a professionally trained caregiver can be an invaluable resource. In addition, if you begin to feel regular anxiety, difficulty sleeping, fatigue, and other symptoms of stress or depression, care may be needed. In fact, over half of family caregivers report clinically significant symptoms of depression. A caregiver can ensure safety for your loved one and give you time to recuperate and address personal needs.
Previous Webinars on the Topic of Alzheimer’s and Dementia
Two of the public webinars in our Healthy Longevity Webinar Series have addressed the Alzheimer’s and dementia care and preventative lifestyle behaviors: