When many residents of Manchester and elsewhere think of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and end of life care, it’s often the confusion, memory loss and unknowns about end-of-life care that first come to mind.
These are certainly areas of concern but there’s a lot more to this form of dementia that people need to be aware of. This is the recommendation of the staff at Above and Beyond Home Health Care, which has been a helpful resource for clients with Alzheimer’s disease and their families.
Although every person who has Alzheimer’s disease is a little different in how it is displayed and progresses through the body, there’s often similar activity in the brain, along with the fact that it still remains a permanently debilitating disease. There are some methods that can be used to extend the time between being diagnosed and requiring more advanced symptoms and ultimately end-of-life.
The Alzheimer’s Association is of several useful online resources that offer information about the different symptoms and stages of Alzheimer’s disease, including the various mental and physical changes that people will go through. It also discusses what people can look for if they believe a family member or loved one may be exhibiting signs of Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.
November is an excellent opportunity to learn more. The entire month is considered Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, a designation created by President Ronald Reagan in 1983. At that time, there were roughly 2 million people suffering from it and today there are more than 5 million.
Alzheimer’s disease is considered the sixth most frequent cause of death. Although anyone can have it, it frequently targets people after age 60.
Though research is continuing into the ‘why’ of Alzheimer’s disease, experts have figured out some of the ‘how,’ which is when proteins in the brain are damaged. This affects blood flow and information flow, and essentially the brain becomes starved and leads to a variety of progressive and permanent mental impairments that show up through the whole body.
These can include memory loss, confusion, and difficulties in completing tasks. The malfunction in the brain can lead to someone having difficulty remembering items that they previously knew how to do, such as directions for activities and assignments. They may not be able to find items in their house or workplace, and unable to remember their previous steps.
As Alzheimer’s advances, people can forget other important things like people’s names, members of their family, even time of day. They may mistake household items for food or become aggressive, and their personality may even change. Previously social people may not be able to speak as clearly or become frustrated or embarrassed with some of the challenges they’ve been experiencing.
Beyond the mental changes that can accompany Alzheimer’s disease, there are a variety of physical changes that can take place.
Some are expected due to progressive brain deterioration and poor blood flow, such as headaches and loss of coordination.
People may begin to slow down or have jerkier movements, such as dragging or shuffling their feet. As commands to and from the brain begin to become interrupted and disrupted, it could lead to problems swallowing, difficulty walking or performing basic motor skills.
Other common physical complaints that are seen include muscle twitching, stomach pains, constipation, and incontinence.
Advanced cases may have weak muscles and difficulty eating and chewing, which can lead to weight loss, lower nutrient levels and poorer health.
Interestingly, in some cases, the physical symptoms and changes are noticed before the mental changes. People may overlook smaller mental errors like forgetting smaller details, slower time making decisions or equate them to “just getting older.”
However, it’s less easy for someone or those around them to overlook recent changes in coordination, new pains or other physical conditions.
Whether someone is dealing with physical pain, mental pain or both, they’ll always appreciate any support. These new changes can be scary and depressing, especially if they know the outcomes can involve forgetting loved ones and an eventual for end-of-life care through hospice.
Talking with a provider soon after a diagnosis is a smart idea; he or she can offer information about resources in your area and even some studies and possible ways to extend the timeline so the symptoms don’t advance as quickly.
For instance, there’s currently a national trial taking place that looks at whether treating Alzheimer’s disease patients aggressively for high blood pressure could reduce the risk of them developing some types of cognitive impairment.
If the trial is successful, it could indicate the importance of good health, especially cardio health, as someone tries to deal with Alzheimer’s disease. Avoiding risk factors that come from poor health and poor lifestyle can lead to better benefits such as not having some of the mental effects.
It also could indicate that all the devastating mental and physical changes from Alzheimer’s aren’t necessarily guaranteed, especially if someone focuses on their health and wellness, such as regular exercise and good nutrition.
Overall the staff at Above and Beyond Home Health Care appreciate being able to share information about dementia with possible clients. They also can give information about any support groups in many communities intended for people battling Alzheimer’s disease or for their caregivers.