November is Alzheimer's Awareness month. It coincides with a time when families typically gather for holiday celebrations, giving everyone a chance to talk about aging and the tough decisions that come along with it. Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia can make living at home a challenge for people as the disease progresses. Taking the time when your family is all together to discuss ongoing care options is a good way to help manage stress and get input from everyone involved.
Alzheimer's disease is a type of dementia that impacts memory, behavior and cognitive ability. While it can be a risk factor earlier in life, age is the largest single risk factor for developing Alzheimer's. The vast majority of people with this condition develop it after age 65. What starts as a relatively mild short-term memory impairment can rapidly become debilitating in some who have Alzheimer's. Others can live for years with mild, easily managed symptoms.
Dementia is a more general term that describes a variety of symptoms, whereas Alzheimer's is a specific disease that's one of the most common forms of dementia. Everyone with an Alzheimer's diagnosis has dementia, but not all people with dementia have Alzheimer's. Life expectancy and quality are some of the major differences. Alzheimer's is one of the slower-moving dementias, and many people live 10 years or more following a diagnosis.
Other types of dementia include vascular dementia, which dramatically increases the risks of stroke and heart attack, and Lewy body dementia that is caused by abnormal deposits in the brain. The stage of the disease at diagnosis plays an important role in determining life expectancy, which is critical when planning for long-term care.
Dementia is broken down into seven stages. Stage one is essentially pre-dementia, with no noticeable decline. During stage two, some people may notice very mild cognitive decline. However, it's unlikely for most people to receive a diagnosis at this stage. People in stage two can go about daily life without assistance and may only have occasional lapses.
Stage three is when most people get their diagnosis. Mild cognitive decline is often more obvious to loved ones and can help speed up the diagnostic process. Individuals in stage three often have several years to plan and make decisions about ongoing care. Stage four involves moderate cognitive decline, while in stage five, the decline is moderately severe. For those at stage six (severe) and stage seven (very severe), receiving safe and effective care at home can become overwhelmingly challenging.
When Alzheimer's first starts noticeably affecting a loved one, you might notice they forget things more frequently. Maybe you have a brunch scheduled, and they miss it, or they may start missing doctor appointments. New information might get lost in the shuffle when Alzheimer's is still mild. These little lapses in memory may grow to include other challenges over time.
As things progress, a person might switch to primarily slip-on shoes. If that choice is due to mobility difficulties, it's a sensible switch. But, if the individual doesn't have trouble reaching their shoes when they're on their feet, getting rid of ties might indicate your loved one is having trouble remembering how to tie a bow. Difficulties with daily tasks can come and go, with more recently learned skills becoming more difficult to access.
Difficulties with language, disorientation and confusion, and impaired judgment might occur simultaneously to create dangerous situations. If your loved one is at risk of wandering and forgetting the way home, or they lose track of the days, they may not receive good nutrition or take medications properly without a helping hand. At this point, it's time to have some tough, but necessary, conversations about Memory Care and what that means for your family.
While your loved one has mostly good days, providing care is often simply a matter of ensuring they aren't alone. Providing meals and reminders about medication may be enough. As their condition continues to deteriorate, home care becomes more challenging and more expensive. At Falcon's Landing, Memory Care offers extra help and a safe place for aging seniors.
Hillside House is our dedicated Memory Care community where our team assists residents with daily activities, and it offers added safety features designed to keep seniors with dementia protected and as independent as possible. From brain games and art therapy to gardening spaces and other activities designed for residents' with memory loss, Hillside House is a welcoming and engaging option for those with moderate-to-severe dementia.
Contact the Falcon's Landing team today to tour the community and get more information on Memory Care and our other living options, including Independent Living, Assisted Living, Respite Care and Skilled Nursing.