This is the first in a series of articles written by Frank S. P. Yacino regarding Alzheimer’s disease. He is the husband and caregiver for his wife Barbara, who has been struggling with this disease for over fifteen years.
Alzheimer’s disease--these are dreaded words when heard from the doctor to a patient who is experiencing memory loss. This disease falls under the general term of “dementia”. Today there are more than 5.3 million Americans who have heard that term used as their diagnosed reason for their forgetfulness. It’s on the same level as a patient hearing that they have cancer, be it pancreatic, liver, lung, brain, thyroid, prostate, bone, stomach, and the list goes on. However, there is more hope in being cured with some of these cancers than there is with Alzheimer’s. We all know there are many other diseases that we humans encounter over our lifetime. Today it seems that the more we talk with other people the more we learn that someone we know is a victim of Alzheimer’s.
This disease destroys brain cells, causing problems with memory, thinking, and behavior severe enough to affect work, hobbies, and social life. It gets worse over time and can cause death. It is the sixth-leading cause of death in America according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
The root cause of this disease is not really known, though there is speculation it has to do with plaques which are deposits of a protein called beta-amyloids which build-up in the brain. There is no known cure for this disease and the confirmation that the patient had this disease is usually confirmed after an autopsy of the brain has been done upon the patient’s death.
The diagnosis of Alzheimer’s can be very devastating to the patient’s family. The first reaction by all will be denial, unless they have seen it in other family members or friends. The thought is this really isn’t happening to us; he or she will get better. This type of “head-set” will doom the family, since once diagnosed the patient will tend to slowly decline little by little each day.
So what is a family to do when this happens? There are several things that can be done concurrently. The first, and most important, is to get all the immediate family members together and discuss the situation, so that everyone is in agreement with regard to the manner of how the care for the patient will be done. Two important non-family members that will be key advisors and can provide quality advice are the tax preparer and an Elder Law Attorney. They can steer the family in the right direction as it pertains to the finances and legal aspects of the patient. Thought should be given whether or not the intention of the family is to keep the patient at home, or if the need arises, placement into a long-term care facility.
The decision to keep the patient home will require considerable outside help. Family members alone cannot provide the needed care twenty-four/seven. There are programs and agencies that can provide some respite care for the primary caregiver. Anyone who thinks they can do this alone is sadly mistaken and in major denial of the entire situation.
Long-term care will not be required upon the first diagnosis of Alzheimer’s/dementia. Although no two patients progress in this disease in the same way, and at the same rate of progression, some may live longer than others before long-term care is required. This disease may last several years or a decade or more.
During the progression of this disease the patient may become combative, argumentative, and aggressive or they may become passive and docile.
In subsequent articles we will get into more details of what has been written here, and we will try to guide the caregiver with as much information as possible in the care of their loved one.
- Saturday, 11 August 2012
- Posted in Categories: : Alzheimer's Series