Education is Key

Living with Alzheimer’s: a guide for family caregivers

By: Dr. Nestor H. Praderio

The diagnosis of a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease can be the beginning of an unbelievably gut-wrenching ordeal. Or it may evolve as one of the most intensely invaluable relationships you will ever experience.

You have probably considered the possibility of the diagnosis for several months or perhaps even years. You have noticed “little things” that are concerning, but you do not want to alarm anyone. As time passes, there are other observations that compel you to seek medical advice for your loved one.

It’s Alzheimer’s. What do we do now?
Get educated about the disease. Read and learn as much as you can. Join a support group. The journey is tough, especially if you try to go it alone.

What is Alzheimer’s disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is the No. 1 type of dementia in the United States. It causes a decline in mental abilities and can interfere with activities of daily living (ADL).

What are the stages of Alzheimer’s disease?

Stage 1: initial stage

• Inability to name common objects
• Losing their place when reading
• Loss of train of thought in mid-sentence
• Minor memory loss
• Difficulty learning new things
• Trouble with planning
• Slow in speech and understanding

Stage 2: moderate stage

• Feeling withdrawn/disoriented
• Problems recognizing family and friends
• Changes in sleep and bladder control
• High risk of wandering and getting lost
• Forgetting details of one’s personal life (past and present)
• Suspiciousness

Stage 3: advanced stage

• Requires 24/7 care
• Changes in physical abilities
• Difficulty swallowing
• Increased risk of infection
• Increased sleeping
• Weight loss

How can I boost my memory, mood and overall health?

• Change your diet by adding green leafy vegetables such as spinach, lettuce, broccoli and cabbage.
• Eat fish once a week, especially fish with high anti-oxidants such as tuna, salmon and whiting.
• Eat mixed nuts as a healthy snack.
• Coconut oil has been shown to improve memory and brain function.
• Vitamin B12 taken twice a week can benefit patients with memory problems.
• Engage in activities that stimulate the brain such as puzzles, reading, coloring and brain games.
• Exercise.

Is there a cure for Alzheimer’s disease?
Presently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Medications will not reverse the disease – but they can slow the progression.

What can I expect in my role as a family caregiver?
In balancing reality while living within the realm of a dementia patient’s world, normalcy is a luxury that often eludes caregivers. As the disease progresses, caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or other dementia requires 24/7 vigilance. According to investopedia.com, the care plan includes support for ADL and regular activities, including:

• Personal hygiene (grooming, bathing and oral care)
• Dressing
• Eating
• Toileting
• Walking/transferring
• Continence

Constant redirection, distraction and reminiscing techniques in addressing the behavioral symptoms of your loved one can be exhausting, stressful and even detrimental to your own health and safety. Seek respite care on a routine basis so that you may re-energize.

Continue to learn as much as you can about the disease. Participate in our community education programs such as the Healthy Aging Series Symposium and the Face to Face Family and Friends Caregiver Conference & Festival.

The Face to Face Family and Friends Caregiver Conference and Festival is our flagship community education event. Agenda topics are outlined in response to general inquiries, feedback and annual conference evaluations from family caregivers. The key session of the caregiver conference is developed in “real time” with public input on the day of the event. The interactive exchange has become a platform for caregivers to express concerns, share personal stories, identify problems, offer solutions, recommend options and gain a sense of community.

The Healthy Aging Series concept implements a mobile panel forum to represent and share the most current knowledge in helping individuals manage the process of aging. The focus of these sessions relate to nutrition, physical and spiritual wellness, social interaction, brain health, family caregivers, complementary health and others.

I invite you to be our guest at the next Healthy Aging Series Symposium on Tuesday, May 30, 2017, from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. in Room 106 at the Del Mar College Center for Economic Development, located at 3902 S. Staples St. (across from Ray High School). The itinerary includes registration, continental breakfast, two presentation sessions followed by a Q&A session for each and exhibitor visits. The topic of my presentation will be “Family Dynamics in Dementia Diagnosis.”

Our invited guest speaker will be Adrian Garza, publisher of Inspire Coastal Bend Business and Medical Magazine. Garza will share his personal journey after his father’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.

The symposium is free of charge and open to the public. Telephone registration is available by calling 361-238-7777. Online registration is available at www.texasfacetoface.com. For more information, follow us at www.facebook.com/texasfacetoface.

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