Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia are among the most common challenges faced by seniors and their loved ones. And although millions of Americans are affected every year, many of the patients go undiagnosed until late in the disease progression. Sadly, folks who suffer undiagnosed Alzheimer’s and dementia don’t get the help they desperately need. And their loved ones and spouses are often unnecessarily confused and frustrated.
Here are some helpful tips for families with aging relatives who may be battling dementia, either known or undiagnosed, and are researching Santa Monica home care services or assisted living facilities.
Many people, including some healthcare professionals, misunderstand the nature of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. For example, it’s very common for a family member to say her father has Alzheimer’s but not “dementia.” Or sometimes people believe their loved one doesn’t have Alzheimer’s because the symptoms, in their estimation, are not severe.
These dementia basics help provide clarity for confused family and friends:
- Alzheimer’s IS dementia and is one type of dementia.
- Alzheimer’s is NOT the only type of dementia.
- Another common form of dementia is “vascular dementia,” which often correlates with poor cardiovascular health.
- People can be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s despite having minor symptoms.
- Alzheimer’s sounds like a scary diagnosis, and it should certainly be treated seriously. But it is quite common and is the most diagnosed form of dementia.
- Alzheimer’s and dementia can sometimes be managed through treatment.
Denial is Understandable but Not Helpful
Many families and spouses are understandably reluctant to admit their loved one suffers from Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. But as with many things in life, denial isn’t helpful. Those seemingly-minor symptoms have real life consequences. And many forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s, are progressive conditions that get worse over time.
According to the Mayo Clinic, here are some common and often-overlooked indicators families should know:
- Irritability / Aggression
- Short-term memory lapses
- Spatial confusion (getting lost)
- General confusion
Families that suspect a loved one is suffering from dementia should schedule a doctor’s assessment sooner rather than later. And while the prospect of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis is daunting, the disease can sometimes be managed through medication and other treatments. Even patients who face the worst-case prognosis will benefit from transparency, which allows family members and medical professionals to develop a care plan to mitigate risk and improve quality of life.
Risks Associated with Dementia
One of the biggest problems with undiagnosed dementia is folks with cognitive impairment face increased risks, both in terms of physical safety and psychological wellness.
Physical Safety – Confusion and memory loss can be dangerous and even deadly. Countless families share stories of “Mom” leaving the stove burner on overnight. And others may reference a father who went for his afternoon walk only to be found wandering the streets miles away and days later in a state of confusion. It’s worth noting, both dangerous scenarios and countless others can be avoided with the help of Santa Monica home care services.
Psychological Wellness – One of the most heart-breaking aspects of undiagnosed dementia is that the patients often suffer mental anguish. And it’s even sadder since these feelings can often be controlled by medication once the disease is diagnosed. Common Alzheimer’s and dementia symptoms that affect psychological wellness include paranoia, anxiety, confusion, and fear.
Dementia & Cognitive Impairment Resources
Knowledge is power, and that’s why it’s critical for families to know when a loved one is suffering from Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. First, there are treatment options that can slow disease progression and improve quality of life for patients. Second, families can access resources that will support their own well-being and provide tools for managing their loved ones’ conditions.
Here are just a few of the support resources available to the families of Alzheimer’s and dementia patients:
Senior Living Communities vs. Home Care
Ultimately, folks with Alzheimer’s or dementia usually need some form of senior living support. The two main options are home-based caregiver services in Santa Monica or nearby communities and assisted living facilities. Each has unique benefits, so families must consider their own circumstances when deciding their course of action.
Senior Living Communities (also known as “assisted living facilities”):
- May have Alzheimer’s or dementia-specific programs
- Usually include non-medical care in the form of supervising staff, provided meals, and medication reminders
- Typically offer a safe living environment and secure premises that prevent dementia residents from leaving the site or “wandering”
- Often do NOT provide medical/nursing services
- Probably banned or restricted family/guest visitation during COVID-19 (and still may)
- Were/are at increased risk of COVID-19 outbreaks
Home Care (also known as “caregiver services”):
- Allows people with Alzheimer’s or dementia to safely age-in-place at home
- Provides professional caregivers in Santa Monica, Marina del Rey and nearby communities who address all non-medical care needs (bathing, dressing, cooking, supervision, medication reminders, etc.)
- Helps maintain lifestyle continuity and a familiar living environment (no moving)
- Enables visitation access to family and friends, even amid COVID-19
- Offers customizable schedules to supplement family caregivers (respite care)
- Reduces COVID-19 risk when compared to residing in a densely-populated senior living community
- May cost more money than some assisted living facilities if using 24/7 care
Nobody wants to hear a close family member or spouse suffers from Alzheimer’s or dementia. Cognitive impairment is a serious matter and has far-reaching implications that affect both patients and their loved ones. But these conditions manifest in different ways and have different stages. Some patients will still live normal lives and remember their loved ones for years to come, and treatments can help slow the progression and improve quality of life in the meantime.
If you’re considering specialized home care services for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia, be sure to contact BrightStar Care of Marina del Rey today for a free assessment from our Director of Nursing!