There are a number of medical terms to define the precise and specific characteristics of Alzheimer’s, but for anyone who has or has had a loved one stricken with the disease, none of that terminology really matters. What matters is to know that Alzheimer’s slowly robs a person of their abilities to function and of their personality by means of deteriorating the brain’s ability to remember, recall, and react. For someone with Alzheimer’s…
- The most basic common-sense actions once taken for granted slowly become difficult and even alien to their thought process. For example: someone in the early stages of Alzheimer’s will put the box of ice-cream bars they just purchased in a cabinet rather than the freezer.
- Familiar places will become unfamiliar; causing panic, disorientation, and denial that they are lost or confused.
- Their personalities often change. The sweet, mild-mannered grandmother becomes rude, argumentative, and cusses like a sailor.
- Names and faces of family and friends cannot be recalled. Often times spouses don’t remember being married and their children are total strangers.
- Simple things like how to dress themselves, eat, and that they need to use the restroom in the restroom are forgotten.
- The state of reality and being in the present will eventually cease to exist.
For someone with Alzheimer’s and their loved ones, sadness, fear, anger, and feelings of helplessness can easily become the norm. But there are ways to make the inevitable more dignified for your loved one. And trust me, the effort is worth it.
When your loved one is in the early and mid-stages of Alzheimer’s, they will experience periods of complete lucidity followed (without warning) of memory loss and disorientation. The memory loss isn’t “Where did I put my keys?”, but rather, “What are keys used for?”
While you cannot do anything to prevent this from happening, you can do something to keep them safe and keep them from feeling useless and humiliated in their periods of lucidity. You can…
- Provide them with simple tools that will enable them to maintain an element of control over their self-care for as long as possible. Things like: hooks and grabbers that help them reach behind themselves to put on a coat or sweater, pill boxes that are dated to help them remember to take their medications, and canes or walkers to provide them with the added stability and mobility.
- Install safety features in their home to allow them to remain in their own home for a longer period of time. These things include: grab bars in the shower and by the toilet, removing throw rugs or securing them with skid-proof backing, putting no-slip decals on the floor of the tub or shower, installing walk-in showers or tubs and making sure bath seats are in place.
- Equip your senior with safer forms of mobility (power chairs, scooters, wheelchairs, stair lifts, etc.). Chairs, scooters, and lifts provide a sense of independence at a time when their physical bodies are deteriorating almost as rapidly as their mental capabilities.
- Install smoke detectors, house alarm systems, personal alarm systems and take whatever measures are necessary throughout the course of the disease to protect your loved one from the possibility of identity theft and being taken advantage of over the phone.
While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s and while it is a disease that by its very nature is dismal and depressing, you can increase the quality of life for your loved one and yourself when you take these simple, yet essential measures.