Alzheimer's May Touch Your Family

There is a very good chance that you know someone who has a family member diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The disease may have already touched your family. Currently one in ten people over the age of 65 have the disease, or about 5.3 million Americans. Here in Wisconsin about 110,000 residents have the disease. At least half of everyone who reaches the age of 85 will have the disease. Older adults and their adult children must understand the nature of Alzheimer’s and the implications of a diagnosis for healthcare planning.

Alzheimer’s is a degenerative disease that is the leading cause of dementia – the loss of cognitive ability. Initial symptoms, which can include forgetfulness, are often subtle and intermittent, making diagnosis difficult at times. The most common early symptom is difficulty remembering newly learned information as the changes from the disease typically begin in the part of the brain that affects learning. While it is the leading cause of dementia, not everyone with dementia has Alzheimer’s. The disease can strike as early as the age of 45, while dementia occurs more commonly after age 70. Memory loss in Alzheimer’s as it progresses is more severe and more serious than simple forgetfulness. Other symptoms in later stages include mood changes and greater difficulty with more complex tasks.

Once a diagnosis is made, many families begin planning for the future in order to avoid a crisis later on.  Plans can be made for support, respite for caregivers and advanced care if the need arises. Planning during the early stages of the disease, when the individual with Alzheimer’s can participate may provide a level of comfort for both the them and their family. The Southeastern Wisconsin Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association is an excellent resource for more information and support.

As the disease progresses, it is critical to build an environment that promotes the preservation and maintenance of skills. It is also the time in which safety and the need for 24-hour care may cause some spouses and families to seek outside help in caring for their loved one. Choices range from in-home options to nursing homes. Senior living communities that provide specialized Alzheimer’s programming offer safety and a professional staff in a residential setting. The goal of this specialized care is to maximize the ability to function and minimize the sense of loss. These communities also provide support and education for the entire family. 

If your family is grappling with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, touring senior care communities that offer dementia care is recommended. An important benefit of some of these communities is specialized programming, designed to provide mental and memory stimulation. This level of specialized care is not offered in all communities, so it is important to understand if an individualized a care plan will be offered to your loved one.

At Laureate Group, we offer complete individualized care for people living with Alzheimer’s at several of our locations. This type of programing can have a profound impact on quality of life.