September is World Alzheimer’s Month, an international campaign designed to raise awareness and money as well as challenge the stigma around Alzheimer’s disease. The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that there are more than 6 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease today, and that number will increase to 13 million by 2050.
Alzheimer’s can be devastating for the patient and their loved ones, who often have to make difficult decisions about how to care for their loved one diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. World Alzheimer’s Month is a good time for a refresher on what Alzheimer’s is, its symptoms, and how hospice and palliative care can help.
This Years Theme
According to Alzheimer’s Disease International, this year’s theme, ‘Know Dementia, Know Alzheimer’s,’ is to raise awareness and encourage people to take action against the disease. This theme continues from the 2021 campaign, which focused on diagnosis, the warning signs of dementia, the continued effect of COVID-19 on the global dementia community, and more.
What is Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, affecting more than 50 million people worldwide. It causes memory loss and other cognitive problems, eventually leading to death.
The disease starts gradually with mild forgetfulness and progresses over time. The average life expectancy after receiving a diagnosis is eight years, but it varies greatly depending on the severity of symptoms at the beginning of treatment.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive, degenerative brain disorder. It affects memory and thinking skills, resulting in many symptoms, including difficulty with daily tasks like dressing or bathing, confusion or anxiety, and personality changes.
Alzheimer’s Risk & Prevention
Anyone can develop Alzheimer’s, but it is most common in people 65 or older. The risk increases as you age—one out of nine people 65 or older has Alzheimer’s.
However, there are ways to help prevent it and reduce your risk, including:
- Being active physically
- Staying socially engaged
- Getting enough sleep
- Keeping your mind active with puzzles or games
The best way to recognize signs of Alzheimer’s is through an evaluation by a qualified healthcare professional who can diagnose the condition by performing memory tests and neurological exams. If you think someone close to you might have Alzheimer’s disease, ask them if they’d be willing to talk about it with their doctor to help assess whether there’s anything wrong with their memory or thinking abilities.
The first step in getting help is recognizing the signs of Alzheimer’s. These include:
- Losing track of dates or time
- Difficulty remembering recent events or conversations
- Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
- Forgetting how to do simple tasks like cooking or driving a car
When you notice these signs in yourself or someone close to you, talk with your doctor right away! The sooner treatment begins, the better the chance of slowing down the progression of symptoms.
How Hospice & Palliative Care Professionals Can Help
While there is no cure for this devastating disease, there are ways that hospice and palliative care professionals can help you manage day-to-day challenges associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions that affect memory and thinking ability. You might find that one of our services can help you:
- Provide assistance in finding resources for caregivers who may need help caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or another condition affecting memory and thinking ability.
- Help you find respite care for yourself or another caregiver so that both of you can take a break from caring for your loved one without sacrificing quality care.
- Help improve communication between loved ones by offering counseling services that address behavioral issues related to dementia, such as depression.
Hospice and palliative care professionals are trained to help people deal with terminal illnesses like Alzheimer’s. They can provide support both for the person who has been diagnosed as well as for their families and caregivers. They can also help the patient transition from an acute-care facility back into home settings where they feel comfortable and safe.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an illness like this, do not hesitate to reach out. Our hospice and palliative care professionals are here to help.