Tips for Seniors

Alzheimer’s and Dementia

When a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or Dementia, we often wonder the causes and the impact that it will have on them as well as us as care givers. Will we be able to keep them in their home safely? What is the difference between the two? Are they safe by themselves? What is the progression? With 1 in 9 people above the age of 65 being diagnosed each year, it is an unfortunate reality we all will face with a loved one in our lifetime. 

It is important to understand the difference between the two diagnoses. Dementia describes the symptoms of a decline in memory, reasoning and/or thinking skills. It is not a normal part of aging but is caused by damage to brain cells making them unable to communicate with each other to allow proper processing of thinking, feeling and behaviors. There are many types of Dementia that impact certain functions due to the cell damage in a specific brain region. Dementia can be even a form of Alzheimer’s accounting for 60-80% of dementia cases. As Dementia is a group of symptoms caused by damage to the brain cells, Alzheimer’s is a true degenerative brain disease that follows cell damage and gradually worsens over time eventually leading to the loss of typical functions that keep us alive. 

Unfortunately, personal experiences with my loved ones having had Alzheimer’s or dementia have given me a unique perspective of both in home care and memory care. It is truly important with either diagnosis that you consider the safety of your loved one and the resources that are needed to keep them safe and well. If considering keeping them at home, there may need to be adjustments such as taking car keys, child locking doors with alarms, changing furniture to keep paths clear, and removing rugs or obstacles that could cause falling. To keep them healthy and clean, consider your resources to provide food and beverage throughout the day as well as help to and from the restroom and assistance with bathing. Home Health, Hospice and Aids are available and can be partially covered under Medicare. Meals programs such as Edmond Mobile Meals are also a great resource for a daily meal.  The alternative to keeping your loved ones in their beloved home is a memory care facility. These facilities have been designed to keep patients safe, provide them with everyday comforts and care while providing 24/7 oversight. Whatever the choice, it needs to come down to resources, safety and being able to always watch and care for them.  Both have their advantages and disadvantages for us as care givers, but it is ultimately what is the safest for our loved ones.

As Alzheimer’s progresses, patients lose typical bodily memory such as speaking, walking, and swallowing. Care may need to change for these patients as they need more attention and assistance as the disease progresses. Having knowledge of what to look for in progression and keeping your loved ones’ physicians abreast of their evolving conditions is important to their care. There are resources and programs for caregivers of dementia and Alzheimer’s patients that are available to assist in gaining the knowledge to keep you hopefully one step ahead on keeping your loved ones healthy and safe. 

It is never easy to watch our loved one’s struggle and especially losing what makes them uniquely them. Know that you are not alone in this struggle, there are many families and friends that are battling the same challenges with someone in their life. Be open and share experiences, ask for help and seek professional support for your own well-being. Taking care of your mental health will allow you to better care for your loved one. 

– Lindsay Clark

EMM Board Member