When you or a elderly loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, it is normal to have a lot of questions. Although unfortunately quite common, this neurodegenerative disease is still misunderstood. As a result, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by this condition that affects hundreds of thousands of seniors across the country each year. In order to be prepared to deal with this neurocognitive disorder, let’s better understand Alzheimer’s disease in seniors by answering these 7 important questions. The purpose of this is to be able to provide the best possible support to the elderly relatives we care about, in the course of their daily lives.
- What is Alzheimer’s disease?
In order to better understand the reality of an elderly person with such a diagnosis, it is first important to know what Alzheimer’s disease is, exactly.
Dementia or Alzheimer’s: is there any difference ?
According to the various medical definitions, Alzheimer’s is considered a neurodegenerative disease. This means that it is characterized by a chronic progressive deterioration of the brain’s functions. Over time, memory and various cognitive functions are affected. Unfortunately, these changes will tend to have an impact on the senior’s ability to accomplish everyday activities.
Although considered the main cause of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are not exactly the same thing. Actually, dementia is more an overall term that can be associated with other neurocognitive disorders in an older people :
- Lewy Body Dementia ;
- stroke / cerebrovascular accident (CVA) ;
- Parkinson’s disease ;
Alzheimer’s among seniors : is it a normal aging process ?
As we get older, our body constantly adapts and changes. The same applies to our brain. With time, it is therefore not unusual to observe some alterations in memory in elderly people. However, it is not everybody who is affected by such problems. According to experts, it is estimated that about 40 % of seniors aged over 65 will experience some kind of memory loss. Thankfully, for most of them, this loss will remain rather minor and will have no major consequences.
For seniors with Alzheimer’s disease, who represent a smaller percentage of the population, the symptoms continue to progress to the point where they can actually affect the way the person is thinking and acting.
So, even if it is true that some people will experience small memory loss as they age, it is still not accurate to say that Alzheimer’s is part of the normal aging process. Actually, it is considered as an important chronic neurocognitive disorder that can develop at any age, but that is mostly present among seniors.
- How to react when learning that you have Alzheimer’s disease ?
In all honesty, receiving a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease can be quite a shock ! Although everyone reacts differently, it will require some time for everyone to properly assimilate the news. But, despite the circumstances, we can focus on the fact that the earlier the disease is diagnosed (in a mild stage of development), better are the chances of being able to live comfortably with this unfortunate reality.
When confronted with this kind of news, our first advice is to make sure you surround yourself well with good people. Even if it can be difficult to announce it to your close relatives, this step is very important. It will allow your loved ones to better understand the situation. As the disease progresses, the presence of caregivers will become more and more important. So, do not hesitate to discuss it early with your immediate family, children, brothers and sisters or even close friends that you have great confidence in. This network of close relatives is definitely a precious asset.
Please also give yourself some time to progress through all the normal first steps after diagnosis. And do not be afraid to ask for help from professionals whenever you feel the need.
- How to react when an elderly loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease?
No matter the age, no matter the time, it is never easy to learn that a parent has been diagnosed with Alzheimer‘s disease. We all know that dementia has considerable impacts on the person with the condition of course, but also on their close relatives and immediate environment.
When faced with this kind of cognitive disorder, your presence as a caregiver takes on major importance in the life of the elderly person you care about. Being able to offer your support and help on a daily basis is without a doubt the best gift you can offer to a senior suffering from this neurodegenerative disease.
However, even if it is also rewarding at the same time, it is important to be mindful that interacting with a senior with Alzheimer’s disease can be a real challenge. Here are a few points to consider that will hopefully help you in your efforts to care for an elderly loved one :
- try to involve the person in the decision-making process ;
- allow enough time for your elderly relative to answer your questions and demands ;
- be patient ;
- speak slowly ;
- use short and simple sentences ;
- be attentive to other ways of communicating, such as the non-verbal ;
- encourage discussion and dialogue ;
- adopt a reassuring and calming attitude.
Caring for a senior with Alzheimer’s disease can be a difficult task, but it is at the same time so important and gratifying. For their dedication to their loved ones, caregivers deserve great respect.
But always remember that you can ask for help yourself if you feel the need to. At any time, Visavie is there to support you. Our teams of professional caregivers have both the experience and the knowledge to guide you with compassion. In this way, we can all ensure the well-being of the senior you care for, but also your own.
- Which daily activities are the most affected in seniors with Alzheimer’s disease ?
With the deterioration of cognitive functions, Alzheimer’s disease tends to have an impact on the daily activities of seniors living with this condition. This means that, as the disease progresses, the simplest tasks of everyday life begin to become more complex. Through better understanding, it is still possible to make a positive difference when supporting an elderly relative.
Here are some examples of day-to-day aspects that may become more challenging for seniors with Alzheimer’s :
- meal time ;
- personal care ;
- bathing ;
- dressing ;
- and much more.
To help in daily life, it is recommended to set up some routines. They help maintain good habits on a day-to-day basis. As a caregiver for a senior with Alzheimer’s disease, you should be prepared to face some form of rejection from the person you are taking care of. Although it may be difficult, you should know that this is a common reaction among seniors with neurocognitive disorders.
In these situations, it is recommended to do your best to reassure the person, rather than to confront them. For example, explain the positive impacts of bathing, such as the fact that the person will feel good and comfortable. Or emphasize the fact that food is delicious, rather than trying to impose the necessity of eating.
- How to make the living environment safe ?
As Alzheimer’s disease gradually progresses, the symptoms may unfortunately increase. It then becomes more difficult for the senior to remain at home without any outside assistance. In addition to memory loss, visual impairment and changes in judgment, balance can also be an issue. Facing these problems, it may become necessary to adapt the seniors’ environment to make it easier and safer to accomplish daily activities.
To help ensure the safety of your elderly loved one, here is a checklist of concrete points to keep in mind :
- make sure the stairways are safe ;
- install grab bars or non-slip mats in the bathroom ;
- ensure that there is adequate lighting in all rooms of the home ;
- make sure walkways and surfaces remain clear ;
- verify that the person is able to use electrical appliances by herself ;
- and if necessary, restrict access to specific items such as medications or hazardous materials.
By carefully adapting the living environment of a senior suffering from dementia, it is possible to allow that person to remain in the comfort of the home for a longer period of time, while also ensuring his or her safety.
Home care services also represent a great way for seniors to stay at home, while preventing the caregiver from becoming overwhelmed. Do not hesitate to take advantage of the professional and compassionate assistance that our team at Visavie can offer you.
- What are the options when the disease progresses too quickly ?
In the situation where progression of the disease is too fast, it may be necessary to consider other housing alternatives to ensure the well-being and safety of your elderly loved one. Throughout the different categories of seniors’ residences in Quebec, some private facilities specialize in the care of seniors living with cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s.
Having to move into a retirement home, no matter the reason, is obviously a major change in the life of an elderly person. In order to facilitate this transition, you can benefit from the help and support of senior housing counselors. Through their expertise and experience, they are dedicated to guide you through the entire process.
At Visavie, we are committed to helping and supporting seniors, as well as their families and their caregivers.
- Alzheimer’s disease in seniors : what are the help options ?
The most important thing to remember here is that, regardless of the stage of the disease, it is important to surround yourself with good people. You must also be ready to accept the help you might need. This idea is not only true for the elderly person who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, but also for the family members and caregivers present at their side.
Thankfully, various resources are available to help seniors with Alzheimer’s disease and the people close to them :
- support groups ;
- one-on-one support ;
- respite care ;
- day programs ;
- educational materials and online resources to help you better understand this reality ;
- help from health care professionals such as family doctors and specialists ;
- local organisms in the region where you live.
All across the province of Quebec, and even in Ontario, Visavie can assist you with all your concerns and needs. Our support is accessible to you at all times, free of charge. You are more than welcome to take advantage of the services we offer. Our team will always do their very best to help you and your elderly relative in a compassionate and caring way. We will also share with you some tools and resources to better understand how to live with Alzheimer’s disease.
Feel free to contact us at any time. At Visavie, our mission is to ensure that all seniors, including those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, can benefit from living conditions that ensure both their dignity and their well-being.