About World Alzheimer's Month: Effects of Alzheimer Disease on Patients and Their Loved Ones
Alzheimer's Disease | AD | Diversified Community Services
Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible brain disease that slowly destroys memory skills, thinking skills and, eventually, the ability to carry out daily activities, leading to the need for full-time care. Dementia is the general term for a group of brain disorders that cause problems with thinking, memory and behavior. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type.
Symptoms vary from person to person, but all people with Alzheimer's disease have problems with memory loss, disorientation, and thinking ability. People with Alzheimer's disease may have trouble finding the right words to use, recognizing familiar objects, recognizing family and friends, and as a result, may become frustrated, irritable, and agitated.
As the disease progresses over time,
physical problems may include loss of strength and balance, and diminishing bladder and bowel control. As the disease spreads throughout the brain, areas that control basic life functions, like swallowing and breathing, become irreversibly damaged, resulting eventually in death.
Alzheimers' Is A Disease That Impacts Those Closest
Psychologists often refer to the families and caregivers of those with memory loss as the ‘invisible second patients’ as it has a ripple effect that can impact the entire family. The amount of time it will take to adjust to the diagnosis will vary from person to person, for both the individual with Alzheimer’s and their family members.
If there is a spouse, she or he is likely to encounter very strong emotions related to the diagnosis. In addition to dealing with the normal activities of everyday life, caregivers must also provide round-the-clock care and support to their loved ones.
Part of living well with Alzheimer’s is adjusting to your ‘new normal’ and helping family and friends do the same. Adequate support resources are vital for the individual providing the majority of the care. Experts say that a “safety net” of support can actually reduce anxiety for caregivers by increasing the perception that resources are available to help handle the stressful situations.
Researches have shown that primary caregivers often become physically and emotionally overburdened and endure high rates of physical illness, social isolation, and emotional distress – including depression.
These factors usually have an impact for the spouse:
Many times spouses also have to deal with their health problems.
They may fear a future that they did not envision.
Husbands and wives often must reverse roles and take on unfamiliar tasks.
Depending on their relationship, a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s will potentially cause couples to bridge together or it can alienate them. Spouses need to accept that the person they have recognized and cherished may change dramatically in character and behavior, and there will likely come a time when their loved one does not recognize them.
Role Reversal for Adult Children
An estimated 5.8 million Americans of all ages are living with Alzheimer's disease in 2020. One in ten people (10 percent) age 65 and older has Alzheimer's disease. About one-third of people age 85 and older (32 percent) have Alzheimer's disease.
Adult children will also need to adjust to the role reversal in caring for a parent. They may feel overwhelmed by the rising responsibilities of their work schedule, caring for their children, and helping their parents. Three of the biggest issues family members face are a lack of privacy, sleep deprivation, and the lone-soldier syndrome—a sense that they have to bear the full burden of taking care of their loved one
Helping Families Cope
Family members may want to meet their patient, to discuss his or her needs, build supports, and find resources. Feelings that many family members have are helplessness and guilt.
The feeling of helplessness may stem from having to take the loved one to multiple physicians before finally getting an accurate diagnosis of the cognitive impairment. Feelings of guilt may arise from many sources: family members may regret being impatient with the patient, losing their temper, or spending time with friends instead of with the patient.
If this proves difficult for the family, consider including:
1. A medium or an objective third party, to help with distinguishing needs and breaking down tasks.
2. A professional geriatric care manager, who can assess the situation and help identify solutions for long-term care.
Alzheimer's disease can cause stress for families. Work through conflicts together so that you can focus on what's important.
When a family member is diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease or other dementia, the effect on your entire family can be overwhelming. As distressing as a parent’s or partner’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis can be, this is the time to begin to accept the future, build a support network, gather information to help alleviate fears, and plan for the road ahead.
We’re Here To Help
AD is a growing, devastating disease that affects not just the patient but the entire family. The disease is a tremendous source of stress to caregivers, not only financial stress but physical, emotional, time-related, work-related, and demographic stress.
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