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What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s is a disease that causes changes in the brain. It is a slow disease that starts off causing mild memory problems and ends up causing serious mental damage. Alzheimer’s affects a person’s ability to think, remember, and talk. It is not clear what causes Alzheimer’s and there is no known cure. Some people may have the disease for five years, while others may have the disease for as many as 20 years. About four million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease. 

Who gets Alzheimer’s disease?
Most people with Alzheimer’s disease are over 65 years old. The chance of getting Alzheimer’s disease goes up as a person gets older. Almost half of people over age 85 have Alzheimer’s disease. The disease seems to run in families.

What causes Alzheimer’s disease?
The causes of Alzheimer’s disease are unknown. Researchers are working around the country to find out what causes Alzheimer’s and how to prevent it. They also are testing new medications to help people with Alzheimer’s live better lives.

What are the signs of Alzheimer’s disease?
The first signs of Alzheimer’s may be memory problems. A person forgets what they just did or the names of people and places they know well. People with early Alzheimer’s disease may have trouble doing simple math problems. As the disease gets worse, people may forget how to do simple things like brushing their teeth or combing their hair. They may not be able to think clearly and have trouble talking, understanding, reading, and writing. Some people become nervous or aggressive, or may even wander away from home. Some people with Alzheimer’s need full time care. People with several of these signs should see a doctor for a complete exam.

How is Alzheimer’s disease treated?
For people in the early and middle stages of the disease, there are medications that can help with memory loss and language problems, sleeplessness, anxiety, depression, and wandering. These medications do not stop Alzheimer’s, but they can make people feel better. People with Alzheimer’s should go to the doctor on a regular basis for check-ups.

How do family members cope when caring for someone with Alzheimer’s?
Taking care of a person with Alzheimer’s disease can be very hard. It can affect your family life, your job, and your physical and mental health. Get help and support -courtesy of: The National Women’s Health Information Center (NWHIC)

 

Visiting a Person with Alzheimer’s Disease

Visitors are important to people with Alzheimer’s Disease . They may not always remember who the visitors are, but just the human connection has value.

Plan the visit at the time of the day when the person is at his or her best. Consider bringing along some kind of activity, such as something familiar to read or photo albums to look at, but be prepared to skip it if necessary.

Be calm and quiet. Avoid using a loud tone of voice or talking to the person as if he or she were a child. Respect the person’s personal space and don’t get too close.

Try to establish eye contact and call the person by name to get his or her attention. Remind the person who you are if he or she doesn’t seem to recognize you.

If the person is confused, don’t argue. Respond to the feelings you hear being communicated, and distract the person to a different topic if necessary.

If the person doesn’t recognize you, is unkind, or responds angrily, remember not to take it personally. He or she is reacting out of confusion.

courtesy of: The U.S. Administration on Aging (AoA)
 

For additional information, please visit: http://www.aoa.gov/eldfam/eldfam.asp

 

Suggested websites for additional information:

Alzheimer’s National organization
Supports families and caregivers. Provides referrals to local resources and services, and sponsors support groups and educational programs. Online and print versions of publications are also available.

Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center
Offers information and publications on diagnosis, treatment, patient care, caregiver needs, and long-term care. Accepts phone and written requests for referrals to local and national resources.

National Family Caregivers Association
An online resource for caregivers, offering a newsletter, caregiving tips, and information.

Eldercare Locator
A nationwide, directory assistance service helping older people and their caregivers locate local support and resources for older Americans.

 

REACH counselors are available to provide further assistance and referrals for Alzheimer’s related concerns. To speak to a counselor contact  REACH at 1-800-273-5273.