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“What kind of environment is best for caring for someone with Alzheimer’s?”

Thursday, January 19th, 2017 12:17:31 PM
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In quality medical care, as a general rule, bigger is better. Where memory loss is concerned the opposite is more often true. In addition to loss of memory, Alzheimer’s disease causes loss of judgment and communication skills. As the disease progresses, physical coordination diminishes and the person with Alzheimer’s faces increased risk of injury, becoming disoriented or wandering off. A proper caregiving environment takes all of these factors into account, not only in planning, but also in staffing and daily operations.

As functioning becomes increasingly impaired, the person with Alzheimer’s becomes more dependent on caregivers for help with tasks such as dressing, washing and even eating. And with this dependency comes an increased demand for safety. For these reasons, care is best provided in a secure, home-like environment with familiar surroundings and a high ratio of caregivers to residents, where there is greatest opportunity for one-on-one attention and interaction.

Please support our local Alzheimer’s Association at 316-267-7333.

 

The 7 Stages of Alzheimer’s: Stage 1 – “Business As Usual”

Thursday, January 19th, 2017 12:17:04 PM
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Firsthand experience with people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s can be misleading – symptoms appear, the diagnosis is confirmed, and the individual soon shows increasingly severe signs of cognitive impairment. As time goes on, the decline becomes even more evident and more rapid, but we’re only seeing the end result of a process long in the making. The fact is, from Stage 1 through Stage 7, the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease may take as long as 25 years or more.

Medical evidence reveals that Alzheimer’s disease may be damaging the brain for nearly two decades before the first symptoms appear. During this time – the period researchers have identified as Stage 1 – the person shows no outward signs. Cognitive function is normal, and for the individual it’s seemingly business as usual.

Please support our local Alzheimer’s Association at 316-267-7333.

 

“When is it time?” Answering the critical question.

Thursday, January 19th, 2017 12:11:46 PM
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Throughout our more than two decades of dealing with families of Alzheimer’s sufferers, the single most common question we are asked is, “How do you know when it’s time to place someone with memory impairment into long-term care?” Rather than a single answer, a family’s decision may be influenced by several factors, the most important of which is determined by what’s in the best interests of the person with the disease. Regardless, the first step must be an accurate diagnosis. The Alzheimer’s Association suggests consulting your primary physician, geriatric psychiatrist or psychologist.

Should a diagnosis confirm that your loved one is in the early stages of dementia and not some treatable disorder, and recognizing that their cognitive decline will create difficulties with basic activities of daily living and ultimately affect their ability to live alone, a family will want to consider other factors. These include not only the individual’s physical wellbeing, but their emotional and psychological health, and the impact that providing care has on caregivers and families. I’ll discuss each of these in future columns.

Please support our local Alzheimer’s Association at 316-267-7333.

 

The 7 Stages of Alzheimer’s: Stage 2 – “Just Getting A Little Forgetful”

Thursday, January 19th, 2017 12:11:37 PM
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Minor forgetfulness is the most typical symptom exhibited by people in Stage 2. However, “forgetfulness” is a familiar

complaint among members of our nation’s 65-and-over population, even those not suffering from Alzheimer’s. In fact, at least half of all persons in this age group report occasional mild difficulty in recalling someone’s name or remembering where they left items such as keys or eyeglasses. Forgetfulness can be caused by any number of factors, many unrelated to Alzheimer’s Disease. But while forgetfulness is simply a normal aspect of aging and may not be particularly noticeable to loved ones, or even the family physician, persons with these symptoms may later be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

In confirmed cases of Alzheimer’s, it is routinely discovered that the individual had previously exhibited “Stage 2” symptoms.

Please support our local Alzheimer’s Association at 316-267-7333.

 

The 7 Stages of Alzheimer’s: Stage 3 – “Symptoms Becoming Noticeable”

Thursday, January 19th, 2017 12:11:17 PM
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In Stage 3 of the disease’s progression, the person’s difficulty in performing certain mental tasks becomes evident to family members and close associates. The individual may be unable to find the right word when speaking or recall something they just read. If he or she holds a job, co-workers or supervisors may notice an obvious decline in job performance, particularly if it involves complex planning or organizational skills. The individual may find it increasingly difficult to master new job skills, to comprehend technical data or follow detailed instructions.

This inability to concentrate can produce feelings of anxiety. In such cases, professional counselors may recommend taking retirement or withdrawing from demanding activities to ease the psychological stress. For the majority of people in Stage 3, obvious signs of dementia will appear within two-to-four years.

Please support our local Alzheimer’s Association at 316-267-7333.

 

The 7 Stages of Alzheimer’s: Stage 4 – “Diagnosis: Alzheimer’s”

Thursday, January 19th, 2017 12:10:59 PM
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At this stage, diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease can be made with considerable certainty. The individual exhibits increased difficulty with numbers, often apparent in their inability to manage finances (i.e., they frequently write the wrong date or wrong amount on checks or payment slips). They may have trouble remembering the day of the week or month of the year. They may forget details from their own past. As their personal frustration with these previously simple tasks increases, they become more reserved and less responsive to others.

Rather than acknowledge the pain of their decreased mental capacity, they attempt to deny it; to hide it – even from themselves – by withdrawing from conversations and social interaction. Studies show the duration of this stage has a median of approximately two years.

Please support our local Alzheimer’s Association at 316-267-7333.

 

The 7 Stages of Alzheimer’s: Stage 5 – “Memory Gaps and Confusion”

Thursday, January 19th, 2017 12:10:33 PM
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The severity of cognitive decline at this stage typically creates difficulties with basic activities of daily living and reduces the likelihood that the individual can safely live alone. Without help, the individual may be unable to identify or prepare proper foods. Their ability to recall vital information such as their age, address or the current year is sporadic. They may

wear the same clothes day after day – unable to choose apparel appropriate for current weather conditions. Because they are incapable of making reasoned choices, they can become vulnerable to strangers and scam artists.  Loved ones and close associates will notice a marked change in the individual’s behavior, with increasing instances of unprovoked anger and suspicion. The average duration of Stage 5 is one-and-a-half years depending on other non-related health conditions.

Please support our local Alzheimer’s Association at 316-267-7333.

The 7 Stages of Alzheimer’s: Stage 6 – “Severe Mental and Physical Decline”

Thursday, January 19th, 2017 12:10:01 PM
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Symptoms at this stage are severe enough to jeopardize the individual’s well-being. Early signs of Stage 6 include an inability to dress without assistance; i.e., dressing backwards or putting street clothes over night clothes. Hygiene and cleanliness become issues. The person may be unable to adjust the temperature of bathwater or brush their teeth. As the disease progresses, they become incontinent and require assistance with all aspects of toileting. Because of the severity of cognitive decline, they may display little or no knowledge of current circumstances, and may confuse loved ones with deceased relatives, or forget the names of their parents or spouse. They exhibit difficulty in speaking. Their fear and frustration can trigger emotional outbursts and aggressive behavior. Stage 6 lasts an average of twoand- a-half years depending on other nonrelated health conditions.

Please support our local Alzheimer’s Association at 316-267-7333.

 

The 7 Stages of Alzheimer’s: Stage 7 – “Functional Failure and Death”

Thursday, January 19th, 2017 12:08:29 PM
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In Stage 7, or what is often termed “late stage Alzheimer’s,” individuals require continuous assistance in order to survive. At this stage, speech is limited to a handful of intelligible words at most. The individual subsequently loses all ability to speak. This is soon followed by a decrease in their ability to walk. Eventually movement itself is limited and the person becomes unable to sit or even hold their head up without assistance. The diminished functioning also affects their ability to smile, with the only observable facial expression being a grimace. Victims of late-stage Alzheimer’s may live on in this tragic condition indefinitely, although because of other contributing factors such as pneumonia, aspiration, severe flu, infection, cancer, COPD, CHF, etc., this last stage rarely lasts more than two years.

Those who do live on are likely to exhibit increased rigidity as well as “primitive” or “infantile” reflexes such as sucking before finally passing away.

Please support our local Alzheimer’s Association at 316-267-7333.

 

Since I turned 70, I’ve noticed that I occasionally struggle to recall a familiar fact…

Thursday, January 19th, 2017 12:08:01 PM
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Since I turned 70, I’ve noticed that I occasionally struggle to recall a familiar fact or come up with the right word. Is this an early sign of Alzheimer’s?

Momentary memory lapses occur even in healthy people and are certainly not uncommon among older adults. The fact that your forgetfulness happens only occasionally and that you can recall these episodes after the fact are both encouraging. Typically a person with Alzheimer’s or other form of dementia will experience these symptoms with increasing frequency and intensity, and often will not remember them. If you or others notice your forgetfulness occurring more often, becoming more severe, or if it affects the performance of daily activities, you would be wise to get a complete medical examination.

Many Alzheimer’s-like symptoms are actually the result of treatable disorders. And while, in some cases, these symptoms can be halted or even reversed, no treatment can be prescribed until there is an accurate diagnosis. By reviewing a patient’s medical history and conducting a series specialized tests, doctors today have about a 90% success rate in accurately diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease.

Please support our local Alzheimer’s Association at 316-267-7333.

 

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