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Normal Aging vs. Alzheimer’s disease

In normal aging, forgetting where you put your car keys or purse and later finding it on the sofa or counter is common. These are “Senior Moments.” Not remembering that you put your keys in the oven or your purse in the freezer is not normal and could indicate it is time to seek a professional opinion.

This type of memory loss could be an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease, one of the most common types of dementia affecting 1 in 5 Americans and predicted to affect more than 16 million by 2050.

Dementia is a term that describes a wide array of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills caused by damage to brain cells.  In dementia, as opposed to normal forgetfulness associated with aging, the lapses in memory are severe enough to affect a person’s ability to perform everyday activities.

“Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but there are many options available that enable those with the disease or other forms of memory loss to enjoy a quality of life,” said Dan Benson, chief operating officer of American Senior Communities, which operates Memory Care facilities called Auguste’s Cottage statewide.

What are the signs of Alzheimer’s disease?

In normal aging memory loss occurs, but your loved one remembers he or she has forgotten something. However, with Alzheimer’s disease, one of about 400 types of dementia, memory loss, especially forgetting recently learned information, disrupts daily life and is an early symptom of dementia. People with dementia may have trouble driving to a familiar location and become lost. They may forget how to start their car.  They may put things in unusual places or lose things and be unable to go back over their steps to find them again. Sometimes, they may accuse others of stealing. They may have difficulty judging distance or determining color or contrast.  They may pass by a mirror and not recognize themselves, believing someone else is in the room.

Is there a cure?

Alzheimer’s disease, like many dementias, is progressive, meaning symptoms start out slowly and gradually get worse. Typically, only people closest to the person with symptoms recognize early changes. Treatment depends on its cause. In the case of most progressive dementias, including Alzheimer’s disease, there is no cure and no treatment that slows or stops its progression and destruction of brain cells. But there are drug treatments that may temporarily improve symptoms.

What should families do when a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease?

After an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, families should build a strong caregiver team consisting of loved ones, family and friends, and the family doctor. Start planning for the future and talk about legal and financial matters. As the disease progresses, around-the-clock care will be necessary. Get the durable power of attorney, advance directives and living wills written and stored in a safe place. Talk to your loved one about opening joint accounts so their business affairs can be handled.

When families decide assistance is needed, Auguste’s Cottage, a program of American Senior Communities, is an option.  Auguste’s Cottage utilizes the person-centered philosophy of care.  Residents are cared for by making them feel at home, rather than in an institutional setting. Excellent healthcare is always provided, but quality of life is the primary focus. Structured daily activities are offered and encouraged to sustain independence and promote a healthy spirit.

When families decide to keep their loved one at home, American Senior Communities offers a Respite option.  Respite is a short stay, typically less than 30 days.  Caregivers must also take care of themselves to be able to effectively help their loved one.  This option is also helpful when the primary caregiver needs to travel.

”Whether your loved one is in a memory care facility or at home, let your loved one know he or she matters to you. This will provide real comfort for not only your loved one, but also for the caregiver,” said Benson.

For more information about Memory Care at American Senior Communities, visit www.ASCSeniorCare.com/ac.

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