Some troubling facts about Alzheimer’s and Dementia related illnesses:
- One third of all Seniors die with some form of Dementia
- It kills more people than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined
- Every 65 seconds someone develops Alzheimer’s
- 5.5 million people 65 and over have Alzheimer’s today, by 2050 that number is projected to reach 14 million
- 16.1 million Americans, most over 65, are caregivers to loved ones with a dementia related illness
As a caregiver, you want the best for the friend or relative you are providing care. Alzheimer’s and other related Dementia are diseases which becomes more prevalent as we age, and are frequently not detected in the early stages simply because we don’t look for the signs, or are in denial as we feel, once diagnosed, quality of life for the person will decline. This is unfortunate as many forms of dementia respond best to treatments in the early stages of progression of the disease, thus maintaining quality of life longer for the person receiving care.
Here are a number of symptoms you should be watching for:
- Short term memory loss – does your loved one forget recent events, have trouble remembering names right after meeting someone new?
- Rapid changes in personality – significant mood swings
- Confusion and frustration in problem solving, particularly involving numbers – for example, does your loved one suddenly have difficulty managing their finances?
- Withdraw from Social activities – has your loved one recently withdrawn from their circle of friends?
- Misplacing things frequently and not being able to retrace steps to find them
- Problems in finding right words in speaking or writing
- Trouble understanding visual images – for example, a traffic light, or stop sign while driving.
- Confusion with time or space – do they understand where they are, what day it is, etc
- Difficulty in completing familiar tasks, at home or at work
If any of these signs are observed the next step is to make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible. She can diagnose if it is a form of dementia, or perhaps something which is totally unrelated to dementia (for example, a blood clot). The importance of early detection cannot be understated – it is critical for maintaining, and extending the current quality of life for as long as possible for your loved one. If it is a form of dementia, including Alzheimer’s, early detection and the treatments available for early stage dementia will slow the progression of the disease.
As caregivers, the burden of watching for these signs fall clearly on us and ignoring the signs because of the potential diagnosis does not serve us or the Senior we are providing care for. There are many support groups and resources available to help you through this process of identification and diagnosis of dementia related diseases. The website below is a great resource for latest information on Dementia for both current research and specifically, useful information for caregivers. Know that you are not alone in this journey and there are many resources to assist you with questions and support!