Alzheimer’s disease can strike people of all ages—with older adults being the prime target. Alzheimer’s causes confusion and disorientation; people forget where they are, who they are and what is happening around them.
More than five million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease or a related disorder. It is estimated that 10 percent of people over age 65 and nearly half of those over 85 are affected. Currently there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, however new treatments for the symptoms of the disease are on the horizon.
Research has shown that effective care and support can improve the quality of life for individuals over the course of the disease.
Q: How do I know when to place my loved one in a memory care setting
A: There are three main areas to consider: conditions of your loved one’s home, any behavioral or mental changes, and social contacts.
Q: What warning signs should I look for in the home?
A: A home’s physical condition may be the first sign of potential problems. Look for piles of dirty dishes, dirty clothes, spoiled food in the refrigerator or pantry, and an odor of urine.
Q: What types of behavioral or mental changes should I note?
A: The home may be clean, but the individual may show signs of inappropriate thinking or behavior. For instance, there is no food in the house or the furnace is turned off in the winter. Other issues you may detect include:
- Can’t remember if or how much medication they took, or forgot to take medication altogether.
- Appear unkempt or refuse to change clothes or bathe.
- Report falling or show evidence of a fall, but minimize the problem or can’t remember it happening.
- Fail to eat regularly or evidence of malnutrition/dehydration.
- Fear of living alone or of other people.
- Wander out of the home or dress inappropriately for the weather.
- Insist on driving even when it poses a risk to themselves or others.
Q: What concerns should I have about my loved one’s social contacts?
A: Consider how isolated the individual is. Perhaps your loved one used to be very active in the community and had a wide network of friends and now he/she rarely leaves home. Or maybe he/she attended weekly religious services and has suddenly stopped going.
Q: What are my next steps?
A: Request a geriatric assessment, which involves an extensive assessment of physical, cognitive and the home environment. Start by contacting your primary care physician who can assist with this process, or refer you to a specialist. Involve your family and other trusted individuals. Allow the individual with memory loss to be an active participant and make choices.