Archive for January, 2010

Depending on the source, some say there are seven (7) stages of Alzheimer’s disease while others say there are three (3). The Alzheimer’s Association says that there are seven (7) stages of Alzheimer’s disease. I will cover each stage of Alzheimer’s in separate posts.

Stage 1, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, is No Impairment (normal function). No evidence is apparent to a health care professional during a medical interview. In my post on What is Alzheimer’s Disease? I mentioned three ways that doctors determine how a diagnosis is made —

  1. Lab tests
  2. Neuropsychological testing (extensive assessment of thinking and memory skills)
  3. Brain scans

Apparently, Stage 1 only involves an interview since there is no evidence or reason for more extensive testing at this point. So why a Stage 1? If Stage 1 is normal functioning with no impairment, then it seems to me in order to determine a Stage 1, it is can only be determined AFTER a person has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. There is no abnormality in Stage 1. So after a person has been diagnosed, then we can go back and say this person with Alzheimer’s was in Stage 1.

On the other hand, it might be possible to detect a Stage 1 if you lived with someone or you know someone very well … a loved one whom you can detect mild memory loss or mild cognitive impairment or other signs and symptoms such as personality changes, all of which may indicate a future Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Or, if you personally feel that something is not right with your memory,  then you may possibly be in Stage 1 of Alzheimer’s disease, but Stage 1 means that you are still functioning normally. At this point, though, from a medical standpoint, an Alzheimer’s diagnosis is not possible. Other problems such as anxiety disorders, bipolar disorders, sleep problems, depression, or medications could also point to Alzheimer’s disease, but that would be conjecture at this time.

If you detect dementia, though, and if you are a future caregiver, you need to remember to most importantly take care of yourself. But it also gives you time to get things in order and prepare for the future. Through our continuous journey, I hope we can learn what to expect (even though each case is unique) and follow the Scout motto: “Be Prepared.”

Alzheimer’s Association

Alzheimer's Association's E-News

The Alzheimer’s Association has a wonderful Web site packed with a wealth of information. I came across the video below because I signed up to get their weekly E-News and you can click here to sign up as well. It is a one-page update on advances in Alzheimer’s disease care, research, events and a brain-builder puzzle. Although the information is invaluable, it can be overwhelming to those not familiar with navigating Web sites. Additionally, symptoms may be similar, but no two people will experience Alzheimer’s disease in exactly the same way.

The video below reminds us that no one is immune to Alzheimer’s disease and Alzheimer’s is a family disease. The statistics are staggering — every 70 seconds in the United States, someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.  Wow! Imagine being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. The Alzheimer’s diagnosis may not surprise you because you may have suspected cognitive decline, but nevertheless, it is a shock to you and your family to receive the news. This can lead to many problems including depression in older adults, anxiety disorder, personality changes, bipolar disorder, and mental health problems, to name a few. Along the journey, although there is no known cure, I will certainly be looking for tips for getting better.

In future posts, I will be writing about stages of Alzheimer’s disease and the problems each stage brings. In this way, we can prepare for coping with the disease.

Check out this video from the Alzheimer’s Association.

Alzheimer’s Disease: Caregiver Stress

In my previous post, I wrote about focusing on the caregiver. If you’re not physically and mentally healthy, finding the strength to take care of an Alzheimer’s disease (AD) patient is a monumental challenge. Even if you are in the best of health, I know it’s still difficult, but at least you’re healthy and can think more clearly. Recently, the Alzheimer’s Association in my area sent me a request to renew my 2010 Champion membership — i.e., please send more money.  Attached to this request was a list — 10 Symptoms of Caregiver Stress. I was happy to see the focus on the caregiver. Here are the symptoms of caregiver stress.

  1. DENIAL about the disease and its effects on the person who has been diagnosed. “I know Mom’s going to get better.”
  2. ANGER at the person with Alzheimer’s or others that no effective treatments or cures currently exist and that people don’t understand what’s going on. “If he asks me that question one more time, I’ll scream.”
  3. SOCIAL WITHDRAWAL from friends and activities that once brought pleasure. “I don’t care about getting together with the neighbors anymore.”
  4. ANXIETY about facing another day and what the future holds. “What happens when he needs more care than I can provide?”
  5. DEPRESSION begins to affect the ability to cope. “I don’t care anymore.”
  6. EXHAUSTION makes it nearly impossible to complete necessary daily tasks. “I’m too tired for this.”
  7. SLEEPLESSNESS caused by a never-ending list of concerns. “What if she wanders out of the house or falls and hurts herself?”
  8. IRRITABILITY leads to moodiness and triggers negative responses and reactions. “Leave me alone!”
  9. LACK OF CONCENTRATION makes it difficult to perform familiar tasks. “I was so busy, I forgot we had an appointment.”
  10. HEALTH PROBLEMS begin to take their toll, both mentally and physically. “I can’t remember the last time I felt good.”

The Alzheimer’s Association offers a brochure that tells you how to manage caregiver stress and how to be a healthy caregiver. Click here to obtain the brochure. The Alzheimer’s Association has a toll-free number should you wish to speak with someone. 1.800.272.3900. I wish you the best. Please take care.

Alzheimer’s Disease: Focus on Caregiver

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is generally associated with people over 60. Many adult children find themselves in reverse roles taking care of their parents. Those whose mother or father has AD or any other debilitating disease find themselves in an extremely stressful situation. In this post, I want to focus on the health of the caregiver. The loss of sleep and the worry over the well-being of the AD patient can take its toll over time.

Abhishek Agarwal in his article on Caretaker’s Health – Taking Care Of Yourself Is Part Of A Caretaker’s Job! says that caring for an elderly person can be both immensely satisfying and overwhelming. He states, “It is equally important for the caregiver to take care of himself if he so badly wants to take care of his loved ones.”

Caregiver burnout can include the following and it is important to get help:

  • Guilt that there are other things to care for in the caretaker’s life besides the parent
  • Decline in health, including change of attitude
  • Lack of sleep and appetite
  • Nervous breakdown

Virginia J. Duffy, Ph.D., a psychiatric nurse practitioner in her article, Beating Burnout In Helping Professionals, has the following recommendations for professionals, but it can certainly apply to individual caretakers as well:

  • Take care of you, it will relieve some of your stress and allow you to better take care of others
  • Try understanding and treating yourself with the same care you give your patients
  • Allow yourself to say no
  • Recognize and allow your own feelings
  • Practice stress reduction techniques (exercise, relaxation, meditation, distraction)

Personally, I think if you can select just one of the stress reduction techniques in a short burst, say, just five minutes of meditation a couple of times a day and capture the gratitude of the moment, you can give yourself a gift. For anyone reading this blog who has a friend with Alzheimer’s disease and you’re not comfortable alone with the patient, perhaps you can just make sure that the AD patient is safe while the primary caretaker just takes a few minutes for him/herself in another room.

I wish you all the best in this new year. It’s so difficult when we know that Alzheimer’s disease is not reversible, but let this be the year that the focus is on the caregiver, too. You owe it to yourself to be strong because it requires strength to care for others.

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