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A Caregiver’s Journey Through Alzheimer’s Disease

A Caregiver’s Journey Through Alzheimer’s Disease

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Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, and eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks.

September is World Alzheimer’s Month, and it’s a time to shine a purple light for the millions of people globally who have Alzheimer’s. There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s. Therefore, it is often your caregiving and support that makes the most significant difference to your loved one’s quality of life. 

Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia can be a long, stressful, and intensely emotional journey. A team of people will provide more effective and efficient care.

Equally crucial in September is highlighting the family members who will often also be the caregivers.  Throughout this article, we will share the journey of one caregiver and her family as they cared for her mom, who was diagnosed with the disease.

The Early Signs of Alzheimer’s

The early signs of the disease will vary among individuals. However, some of the early signs that the caregiver will notice may include forgetting recent events or conversations. The caregiver may also recognize that the inability to carry out everyday tasks is increasing.

Maxine recounts the early signs in her mother.

If you are concerned about thinking skills you observe in a family member or friend, talk about your concerns and ask about going together to a doctor’s appointment.

The doctor explained his diagnosis.

During the early stage of the disease, it does not automatically mean a person cannot safely live independently. Some people may be able to live on their own for some time after the initial diagnosis. Over time the caregiver will become aware that their relative’s condition is deteriorating. As a result, their living situation should adjust to implement some regulation over daily affairs.

Experiences of Maxine’s mom living alone after the diagnosis

Getting Support with Alzheimer’s Caregiving

As the person moves through the stages of Alzheimer’s, the caregiver will need more help. Understandably, you may feel that asking for help shows weakness or a lack of caring, but the opposite is true. Asking for help shows your strength. It means you know your limits and when to seek support.

Choosing to get involved in group support
Family support is important

Stages & Behaviours of Alzheimer’s Disease

Caregivers cannot stop Alzheimer’s related changes in personality and behaviour. As Alzheimer’s progress, the individual’s behaviour also changes. Some changes may include hiding things, wandering away from home, imagining things or misunderstanding what they see or hear.

The scary face of the disease
Frequent wandering away from home

Taking Care of the Caregiver

One of the most important things you can do as a caregiver is taking care of yourself, physically and mentally. Included in the self-care are asking family members and friends to help out and doing things you enjoy. Taking these actions can bring you some relief. It may also help keep you from getting ill or depressed.

Self-care for the caregiver will vary.

How Long Might Someone Live After Diagnosis

After diagnosis, the years that a person may live with the disease varies. Some may live as long as 20 years, depending on other factors. An essential element is that changes in the brain related to Alzheimer’s begin years before any signs of the disease appear.

Years of living with the disease

Is Alzheimer’s Disease Genetic?

Many people wonder if Alzheimer’s disease runs in the family. A person’s chance of having the condition might be higher through specific genes from a parent. However, having a parent with Alzheimer’s does not always mean that someone will develop it.

Maxine talks about her family history and paranoia

In conclusion, Alzheimer’s disease is not a preventable condition. According to the Mayo Clinic, evidence suggests that changes in diet, exercise and social habits may lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other disorders that cause dementia.

Contact Alzheimer’s Jamaica for information, support and advocacy for persons in Jamaica living with dementia and the associated Alzheimer’s disease. STRiDE Jamaica is another excellent resource.

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