What is Alzheimer’s dementia is a common question. Once the diagnosis is given, many family members feel a sense of relief that there is a name for what is happening to the aging senior in their life.
Once a diagnosis is given, that is when the medical or health care delivery system really fails their patients and family members. Over time, family caregivers will feel a sense of disappointment and disconnect from the health care professionals. While the health care professionals are able to diagnose and prescribe medications, they are not seeing and experiencing what you are at home.
I cannot tell you how many times family caregivers have been overwhelmed and frustrated with a situation and behaviors exhibited at home, only to be told that is part of the disease. There was no offer of a solution or a referral to a community resource made that would be beneficial.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive form of dementia. It is the most common of all dementias. Although there it is not understood what causes Alzheimer’s, scientists have found that this disease causes severe damage to the brain cells.
There are two types of brain cell damage that occurs in individuals with this dreadful disease. Plaque build up, of a normally harmless protein, interferes with the brain cells communications resulting in cell death.
Unnatural tangles of the brain cells occur causing them to become twisted and die. As the disease progresses, and the brain cell death increases, the behaviors and physical abilities as described in the stages of Alzheimer’s occur.
More on what is Alzheimer’s Dementia? We have a diagnosis, what do we do now?
The progression of this disease gives families time to educate and prepare for what lies ahead when a diagnosis is made. There are seven stages of Alzheimer’s. These stages are based on the behavioral, physical and cognitive changes that may be exhibited as the disease progresses.
It is important to understand that while the stages have behaviors and physical changes that occur at each level, every individual is different and will not exhibit a clear cut pattern specific that is specific to each stage.
What I mean, is a person will not display all the behaviors or physical changes listed. Nor will an individual consistently go by the book, as far being in one stage at a time. Many individuals will display a range of behaviors in two or three stages at a time.
There are times when an individual will stay in one stage and stabilize for a long period of time. Other times, there may be a rapid deterioration that occurs and an individual may appear to skip a stage.
It is important to start preparing for the future care needs of the aging senior with Alzheimer’s as well as for the family care givers.
In most situations, I find that there is one primary care giver, a spouse or an adult child that carries the responsibility of providing the care for the aging senior. The family caregiver often does not initially realize that this care giving journey could last as long as 20 years or be as short as 3 years.
So it is very important that the family caregiver become the primary focus along with their aging family member with Alzheimer’s dementia. The emotions of care giving will encompass chronic grief, depression, anger, frustration and social isolation. Care giver stress is very real and has severe health consequences, when left untreated, for the care giver.
It is never easy when you receive the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s dementia. It is important that when you or a family member does receive that diagnosis, you immediately take action and make plans for future care needs.
That would include the family care giver learning as much as they can about the disease, the exploring and joining the support systems such as the Alzheimer’s organization to help guide and prepare you for this unknown journey.