Sometimes professional caregivers can learn something about caregiving from a “lay person.”
Years ago, I learned how to respectfully care for Alzheimer’s patients from my Aunt Ina . . .
One day while visiting Aunt Ina, she and I walked from the assisted living cottage she lived in to the nearby nursing home.
As she told me about the different buildings, she referred to Alzheimers disease as “Old Timers’ Disease.”
At first I thought because she wore hearing aids perhaps she’d misheard. In listening to her speak lovingly of the folks in the “Old Timers'” wing of the skilled nursing unit, I realized this was how she dealt with the disease.
She saw each person not as a patient or as someone ravaged by Alzheimer’s disease. Instead, she viewed them as a beloved elder.
In truth, many of them were chronologically younger than she was!
In many families, elders are honored and respected. And if they are ill or disabled, that does not displace the love, honor and respect shown them.
In listening to one of my elders, I learned an important lesson that would guide me in my encounters with patients — both with and without Alzheimer’s disease.
So what is Alzheimer’s disease?
- Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disease. That means it gets worse with time.
There is no cure.
- A person with Alzheimer’s has symptoms of memory loss and declining ability to reason and think. This often starts as forgetfulness and then gets worse with time. Problems with working with numbers, telling time, and an inability to concentrate are typical.
- As the disease progresses, the person affected often has personality changes and can have sudden mood changes.
- In advanced stages there are severe symptoms including personality changes.
- Sometimes it’s more common in families. So if you have a close relative with it like a parent, grandparent or brother or sister you may have an increased risk of Alzheimer’s.
- One of the risk factors is advanced age. Mostly Alzheimer’s shows up after the age of 65. But not all elderly people have it.
- While there’s no cure for it, patients can live sometimes 20 years after the diagnosis.
Can Alzheimer’s disease be seen on scans?
Yes, it can be seen on special scans called PET scans.
Are PET scans necessary?
No, a physician doesn’t always need a PET scan. By taking a history, examining the patient, and excluding other causes of the symptoms a physician can diagnose Alzheimer’s.
Sometimes a neurologist (a physician specializing in diseases of the brain and nervous system) or other specialist is asked by a family physician to see the patient.
You can see the difference in colors in this PET scan. It shows a normal brain on the left and one with Alzheimer’s disease on the right . . .
Recently medical research discovered how these brain abnormalities are formed. And you can see this illustrated in this video . . .
If the video doesn’t play or you cannot see it, use this link:
So as you saw in the video in Alzheimer’s Disease the normal enzyme stops working, and another enzyme snips Amyloid Precursor Protein (APP) in a different place than normal. This leads to the formation of the plaques.
The tangles are formed when Tau Protein is abnormal.
Researchers are seeking answers to why the plaques form and why abnormal Tau Protein is formed.
How can caregivers help Alzheimer’s patients?
Well, one way is to help them see their lives are still meaningful and important after the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.
This is most helpful in the early stages before severe changes take place.
They may need help completing a task or finding something they can do that is meaningful.
Living in today is important, because tomorrow they may not remember or be able to do what they did today.
“For yesterday is but a memory and tomorrow is only a vision; but today well lived makes every yesterday a memory of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope.” – Sanskrit Poem
Have you checked out The 21-Day “I AM a Gift to the World!” Challenge?
You can do it yourself. Or if your loved one with Alzheimer’s is able, you can do it together. It can be a great way to make your loved one with Alzheimer’s see how a disease will not prevent them from making a difference.
It’s fun, free and has GREAT prizes! So click on the picture now to find out more . . .
May you have a safe caregiving journey . . .good health . . .and happiness,
Caregiving With Purpose
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