You never think it’ll happen to you – or, worse, someone you love. That lively, happy person who filled your days with joy becomes a stranger, a shell of their former self. Someone you don’t recognize. Someone who doesn’t recognize you.
It scares you.
Where do you go next? What are you supposed to do when your friend or family member changes for the worse?
Truth is, your loved one could have Alzheimer’s disease, and they’re not alone. Over 5 million Americans suffer from this heartbreaking condition, and the number just keeps rising.
But how do you know you’re dealing with Alzheimer’s? Here are a few signs to look out for:
- Memory problems. Maybe they constantly forget that one of their grandchildren is allergic to something. Perhaps they need to put notes all over their home so they’ll remember to lock the door when they leave or put on socks.
- Poor hygiene and personal care. People suffering from Alzheimer’s may not shower as often as they should or know how to dress for the weather (ex: wearing a winter coat in the middle of summer).
- Putting things in strange places. Are you finding cereal boxes in the bathroom or shoes in the kitchen pantry?
- Mood swings. They may become irritated or anxious, screaming and cursing at you for no obvious reason. You don’t understand what you’ve done to provoke them.
Get them checked out by a doctor so you can know for sure.
While it can’t be cured, that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything to help them live a good life.
- Secure the house and keep all doors locked. Some Alzheimer’s patients tend to wander away. An unlocked door is all they need to disappear and cause a panic.
- Make sure they have some form of identification on them. If they get away from you, a Good Samaritan needs to be able to reach you or someone you trust.
- Talk to caregiving professionals for advice and possible assistance when you can’t be there or fall ill.
- Be patient and understanding. Don’t talk down to or yell at them.
There are plenty of resources for caregivers and friends alike. Be sure to check these out.
Alzheimer’s Association (https://www.alz.org)
Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (http://www.alzfdn.org)
National Institute on Aging (https://www.nia.nih.gov)
AARP: Family Caregiving (https://www.aarp.org/caregiving)
There may be support groups in your area, so ask around.