Alzheimer’s Awareness: Important questions to ask and common misconceptions

Simple Health
William Burke

FILE – In this Aug. 14, 2018 file photo, a doctor looks at a PET brain scan at the Banner Alzheimers Institute in Phoenix. Two experimental drugs failed to prevent or slow mental decline in a study of people who are virtually destined to develop Alzheimer’s disease at a relatively young age because of rare gene flaws. The results announced Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, are another disappointment for the approach that scientists have focused on for many years — trying to remove a harmful protein that builds up in the brains of people with the disease. (AP Photo/Matt York, File)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Many have witnessed the heartbreaking impact dementia can have on a person and their families.

According to the World Health Organization, around 55 million people have dementia worldwide, and as the proportion of older people in the population is increasing in nearly every developed country, this number is expected to rise to 78 million in 2030 and 139 million in 2050. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states in 2020, as many as 5.8 million Americans were living with Alzheimer’s disease with 400,000 of them in Texas.

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia. It can impact a person’s ability to perform everyday tasks and communicate with others. To help educate more people about the disease, November is designated as Alzheimer’s Awareness Month.

Misconceptions about the disease are common as families learn how to best care for a loved one who has been diagnosed with dementia.

Onika Reyes, client care director for Right at Home Round Rock, said many tend to think a dementia diagnosis signals the end of a meaningful life, but this isn’t always the case.

“The earlier it’s detected, the more you can do to cater to your loved one’s needs, and even get them i- home care so they can continue living as independently as possible with great quality of life,” Reyes said.

Some early signs of memory loss, dementia or Alzheimer’s include difficulty with:

  • Language
  • Non-Verbal communication
  • Focus
  • Reasoning
  • Forgetting where they left an item
  • Failing to recall why they entered a particular room
  • Forgetting to attend appointments, take medication, or keep up with other commitments

These signs can happen gradually over time. If you notice these signs in a loved one, Reyes says communication is key. “It’s best to initially have a one-on-one conversation. That way your loved one doesn’t feel threatened or attacked in any way. In several instances, it can take several conversations. A visit to the doctor might be very helpful as well. They can hear it from a loved one and a medical professional.”

Reyes also points out caregiver burnout within family members is common as they navigate caring for a loved one with a diagnosis.

“Having a good support system is so important because people that are caring for loved ones with dementia or Alzheimer’s often end up neglecting their own needs,” Reyes said. “If you have that family support system you can go back to playing your role with your loved one. If it’s your mother, you go back to that mother-daughter relationship and allow a caregiver to help with the day-to-day tasks.”

As individuals and families work to adapt to life with dementia, many decide to hire a caregiver to help assist with daily care, or even find a trustworthy establishment where their loved ones. This can be stressful for families as they find a place they trust, Reyes says asking key questions may help make the decision-making process easier.

“Definitely ask what the employee/staff ratio is to the client,” Reyes said. “You definitely want your family member to feel comfortable and to know that somebody will come to them if they are insecure or feel scared or they need help with something. I would also ask what type of facilities are available for the residents that live there. Many facilities have a music room or piano. Many times they’ll have someone come in and play or a resident will play.”

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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