Michigan caregivers who have a loved one living with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia know how challenging the disease can be. The physical and emotional toll it takes on families can be devastating. And the number of people with Alzheimer’s continues to soar. According to the new 2013 Alzheimer’s Facts and Figures report someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease every 68 seconds. Michigan alone has an estimated 180,000 people living with Alzheimer’s disease. By 2025 that number is projected to increase to 190,000.
For caregivers, knowing if changes they see in a loved one are a natural part of the aging process or something more serious can be difficult to determine.
Eileen Drexler is the Alzheimer’s and dementia care expert for Michigan based Heritage Senior Communities. She offers families the follow tips to help determine what may just be normal aging and what might be something more serious:
1. Forgetfulness. The frantic pace most of us go through life at means we are all bound to forgot things from time to time. But if you are worried your aging parent is forgetting too much, consider what it is they don’t remember. Is it appointments and events they were supposed to attend or is it faces and names? Not remembering the name of someone they have known for a long time can indicate a more serious problem. If they forgot about activities or appointments they had planned, do they remember them later? If it is dementia, they likely do not remember at all.
2. Misplacing Things. There are some items that we all seem to have a hard time holding on to every day. Misplacing our keys or cell phones can be hard to keep track of at any age. But if we retrace our stops for the day, we can usually find them. A person with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia may not be able to do this because they can’t remember all of the places they were over the course of their day.
3. Change in Personality. People in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease often realize something is wrong. They aren’t sure what it is, but it often creates fear. They may withdraw from everything including the people and activities that are most familiar to them. They may also become irritable. A typically gregarious person may become difficult.
4. Getting Lost. This is probably the classic behavior we all recognize. An older person goes out to make a quick stop at the bank and can’t find their way home. An older adult in the beginning stages of dementia may forget where they are and how they got there. They may even have trouble remembering what day it is.
5. Bad Judgment. Alzheimer’s disease and dementia can impair a person’s ability to make good decisions. Even in the earliest stages of the disease. This makes them easy prey for scammers. Especially telephone scams and telemarketing fraud. If your loved one receives a lot of telemarketing calls or seems to be spending a lot of time on the phone with strangers, it is probably something you need to investigate.
Do you have a loved one living with dementia?
What was the first signal you had that there was a problem?