Do you know what the sixth leading cause of death among senior adults in the United States is? It is Alzheimer’s! In addition, two-thirds of affected seniors are women. According to the nonprofit Alzheimer’s Association, the number of older adults living with Alzheimer’s disease in the United States is expected to grow, especially as Baby Boomers continue to age.
Have you had a loved one recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s? Are you wondering where to turn to find ways to support your loved one? Here are three ways to cope with a loved one recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease:
- Learning What Alzheimer’s Is. Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, is a degenerative brain disease. Symptoms include memory loss, diminished problem-solving abilities, poor judgment and erratic behavior. Unfortunately, symptoms will worsen over time until affected seniors can no longer care for themselves. In many cases, they succumb to the effects of eroded brain activity controlling basic bodily functions, such as swallowing and breathing. Educating family and others about Alzheimer’s and the likely progression of symptoms, available medical treatments and other important factors will help everyone to better cope with the disease.
- Phases of Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s disease occurs in three distinct phases. The first phase is known as early-stage Alzheimer’s. This is the phase when most seniors are diagnosed and can still function somewhat normally. This is an excellent stage to make important decisions about long-term care, estate planning and important legal matters. Documents such as a durable power of attorney, advance directive and health care privacy release, are important to create during this stage because it allows the elder adult to express his or her desires prior to losing the ability to make competent decisions.
The second or next phase of Alzheimer’s may be the longest phase of the disease. An affected senior may begin jumbling his or her words, have trouble expressing thoughts and emotions, struggle with simple tasks like getting dressed, and exhibit unpredictable behavior. This is followed by the final or late phase of Alzheimer’s. This is the phase when the disease has progressed to require around-the-clock care.
- Communicating with a Loved One with Alzheimer’s. Caring for an aging loved one with Alzheimer’s is both rewarding and stressful. Consider these communication tips when providing care:
- Be as patient and compassionate as possible
- Call the elder adult by name and remind them who you are if they are unsure
- Speak slowly and use simple, clear sentences
- Find different ways of saying the same thing
- Do not get frustrated
- Do not say things like: Did you forget? I just told you. How could you not know?
- Do not talk in front of the elder person as if they are not present
- Try not to use sarcasm or irony, even if meant humorously
- Do not use patronizing language or “baby talk”
If you or someone you know would like more information or guidance about related legal matters, contact a qualified elder law attorney today. You may visit our website to use our Find a Lawyer feature to locate an attorney in your area.