Alzheimer’s disease is probably the most feared of the dementia disorders. It strikes fear into the heart of anyone hearing that their aging loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
A German neurologist, Dr. Alois Alzheimer, made the discovery of the hallmarks of this disease in 1905. Four years previously, a woman came under his care. She suffered from memory loss, bouts of confusion, difficulty speaking, agitation, suspicions, wandering and screaming when confined to her bed. He studied her behavior patterns and physical health until her death in 1905 whereupon he performed an autopsy on her brain.
What he found in the autopsy is that her brain had shriveled and there were missing neurons. He also discovered tangles in the neuro-fibers and what have become known as deposits of senile plaque in the brain. He presented his findings the following year, 1906, to a group of psychiatrists.
Alzheimer’s disease is considered to be non-reversible, non-curable and fatal. That’s not a very positive prognosis and that’s why this disease is considered to be so ravaging. A patient may live 5 years or even up to 20 years after the initial symptoms emerge; it depends on their age at time of diagnosis and also the rate of the disease.
Many Alzheimer’s sufferers succumb to a medical complication like pneumonia or the flu. However, even if no secondary complications arise, the patient will die of Alzheimer’s because the body will begin to shut down and vital organs will lose vitality as the brain continues to deteriorate.
This is a grim future indeed. But we must remember that this once vital and energetic individual still has feelings, a legacy they have built over their lifetime and they still need love and have love to give. Their future can be comfortable for both them and their loved ones if given the right care for the remainder of their time.
If you are the caregiver to a beloved parent who has developed Alzheimer disease, it is not an easy path to walk. It will be heartbreaking as you see your parent forget obvious memories and not be able to complete simple tasks. You will become the parent in a sense, giving care to a grown up child who needs constant supervision for their own safety and your peace of mind.
Caregivers who have a parent living with Alzheimer disease need support too, and there are many groups who offer support and encouragement to caregivers.
There is training available to caregivers who desire to take care of their own parent. Knowing what is ahead of you is half the battle in caring for an Alzheimer’s patient. It makes it easier to handle changes as they arise if you know it is an expected development of this disease. Your once loving and dependent parent may at times become moody, grumpy and even develop a violent temper which can turn on at the least provocation. Education is the best preparation you can do to be able to properly take care of your parent.
You need to take care of yourself before you can effectively take care of someone else, especially when they have a high need level. To avoid caregiver burnout, make sure you are getting adequate rest and exercise and balanced meals. Take one day each week to spend time relaxing or doing something you enjoy. You can get another relative to watch your parent on that day or hire someone from a home care facility.