Alzheimer's disease directly affects about four million people in the United States, though it affects many more of us indirectly.
While we may not be suffering from the disease personally, many of us are in a position where it has become necessary to care for someone with Alzheimer's. To understand how best to cope with a parent diagnosed with Alzheimer's, you must first have a clear understanding of what it is and how it affects the people you love.
What is Alzheimer's disease?
Although there known genetic and environmental factors that contribute to the disease, the exact cause of Alzheimer's is unknown. It is a degenerative disease of the brain that results in progressive dementia. This often begins with progressive memory loss, followed by increasingly disorganized thought and speech patterns. Due to the continual deterioration of the brain, the disease progresses to a point in which the person becomes helpless and can no longer care for themselves. It eventually results in death.
Getting Prompt Medical Care
If you suspect Alzheimer's disease in a parent, it is important to get a prompt diagnosis. You'll want to find a family physician or internal medicine doctor familiar with the disease, preferably one specially trained in diseases of the elderly. Other doctors that may diagnosis Alzheimer's include neurologists and psychologists. While there is no cure, there are many medications available that can help treat and slow down the progression of the disease.
It is also important so set up a support system for yourself as soon as you learn of the diagnosis. Caring for someone with Alzheimer's is an overwhelming task. A good place to start is your local Alzheimer's Association. They are extremely helpful and can offer advice on caring for your parent and personal coping strategies. They can also direct you to local support groups and other helpful organizations. You may want to locate a place early on as well that can help with care if it becomes too much.
Finding an Appropriate Facility
Many times it becomes too much to care for a parent with Alzheimer's disease on your own. Often you cannot be there to consistently take care of their needs. If this should happen, be sure to find an appropriate facility adept at caring for patients with Alzheimer's and dementia. Research your options to find the most appropriate place for your loved one. An assisted living situation may best meet your needs. There are also nursing facilities and smaller licensed residential care homes. Though it is more costly, there are Alzheimer's disease dedicated facilities that treat Alzheimer's patients only and focus solely on their specific needs.
Remember, caring for someone with Alzheimer's disease is an emotionally stressful experience, and you'll need to remember to care for yourself also. Be sure to take time out for a break and to meet your needs so that you can be at your best to deal with your affected parent. There are many day facilities that can care for them when you need a break on a temporary basis. Also, become as knowledgeable about the disease, available treatments, and options as you possibly can so that you can be prepared for what is to come. This will also help in reducing the stress involved if you are prepared in what to expect and how to handle the progression of the disease and have also adequate coping strategies in place.
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