With Monday being World Alzheimer’s Day, it’s a good reminder that this is a disease that is still an issue for the short term and will be for the long term, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States, and deaths from it increased 146% between 2000 and 2018, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
In 2020, Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias will cost the United States $305 billion. By 2050, that figure is expected to reach $1.1 trillion, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
In light of that, many understandably wonder what the signs of Alzheimer’s disease are, what behaviors usually plague some with the disease and what is the best way to treat and socialize with someone suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
Courtney Hochhalter, who has gone through special certification to help treat people with cognitive decline and is a franchise owner of Right at Home, an in-home care company that assists senior citizens and families struggling with Alzheimer’s disease, offers solutions to problems associated with Alzheimer’s.
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Difficulty performing familiar tasks
This can include tasks such as dressing, eating or locating familiar places such as a bedroom or bathroom.
“If it’s a simple task like dressing, instead of having every shirt in the closet a button-down shirt, figure out easier ways,” Hochhalter said. For example, you might try “shirts that are pullovers, shirts that have snaps on them or things that are easier for them to navigate themselves," she added.
Hochhalter said when it comes to helping someone locate a familiar place, pointing that person in the right direction is usually a good solution.
“People, especially in early stages of Alzheimer’s -- they get frustrated really easily,” Hochhalter said. “They are very self-aware that they aren’t able to remember things like they used to. Sometimes a simple trigger, a simple reminder or a subtle pointing in the right direction is all they need to get back on track.”
Changes in personality
Hochhalter said it’s not only frustrating for family members to see personality changes in their loved ones, but it’s equally frustrating for the person going through it because they’re not sure what’s happening to them.
“They’re probably pretty self-aware that something is changing with their mind,” Hochhalter said. “They are trying to grasp memories that they used to have, but they just can’t get them anymore. They become suspicious. They think something is happening or that maybe somebody slipped something into their coffee or tea. They become suspicious or confused, even with people they have known their whole life.”
Hochhalter said going with the flow with an Alzheimer patient’s changes is critical because trying to correct them can make the patient more embarrassed and the situation could become worse.
“The last thing you want to do is correct somebody,” Hochhalter said. “If somebody with Alzheimer’s thinks it’s 1982, then work with them. It’s 1982. There’s no reason to try and correct them.”
A desire to go home when already home
This is a common problem for people suffering from Alzheimer’s. All of a sudden, they’ll blurt out how they want to go home when are already sitting inside their living room or in their kitchen.
Again, Hochhalter said patience and not trying to correct is key.
“We really go along with them,” Hochhalter said. “Say, ‘Yeah, we’ll head home shortly. Let’s just finish up what we are doing here. We’ll watch a TV show or we’ll have lunch real quick then we’ll head home.' Sometimes, somebody with Alzheimer’s will grab their suitcase. They’ll see their suitcase in a closet. Maybe they won’t recognize it’s their closet, but they recognize their suitcase in the closet. Typically 10-15 minutes later, they don’t remember they were trying to head home. It’s just redirecting, not being confrontational and not correcting them. It’s about being very positive.”
Hochhalter added that in some cases, traditional medicine is best for treatment, but it’s a balance between that and moral support.