When You Sense Something is Wrong but aren’t Sure As Yet
Because the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease range from being mild to severe and because they emulate the symptoms of normal aging, it can be difficult to identify the signs early. In fact, quite often, patients as well as their care givers end up ignoring early signs while dismissing them to be a “passing phase” in the person’s life. It’s almost as if they adopt a “lets-wait-and-watch” approach to the whole situation. While I don’t recommend that people leave their work to analyze every passing sign or symptom of their loved ones, I believe reporting an odd pattern as soon as you sense it will give you the added leverage in treating the disease. Your best chance at arresting the symptoms lies in early identification.
Although there is intense study in the field of neuropsychological imaging and early diagnosis, the medical fraternity is yet to find a precise diagnosis that can ascertain the disease at its earliest stage. Until then, doctors recommend we stay watchful of collective symptoms that indicate an early onset of the disease.
The term mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is specifically used to categorize symptoms that indicate the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Studies reveal that 10 to 12% of people who complain of MCI end up suffering with the Alzheimer’s. Due to this, doctors administering patients with MCI symptoms advice lifestyle and dietary changes that work at keeping the brain active and the disease at bay right away. People with MCI are suggested to stay both physically and mentally active the moment they sense the symptoms.
Managing the Early Stages of Alzheimer’s
When a person is in the early stages of the disease, they might have problems in managing their daily routines. In their mind, they might feel like they are managing just as usual and refuse to recognize it otherwise. However to others, they might appear slack and negligent.
Part of the problem in managing early stages lies in determining if and when you should take control of the situation. And if you think you should, how much of it can you control without making the person feel like they’ve been compromised or that they’ve lost their freedom?
It’s common for patients to insist on their freedom. They might even go all out to defy rules, insisting on driving and living alone when they clearly cannot.
Although there is no ideal way , it’s best advised that you to take your time and be patient while taking over the reins. Make the person feel cared for and important before you decide to begin taking decisions for them. Once they have the confidence that you’re there to help (and they sure can sense it), they might be able to understand your point of view.
Identifying the Point When Your Loved One Cannot:
Continue in Their Job
As a care giver, your first responsibility is to protect the safety of the patient. Sometimes, while in pursuit of this responsibility, you might have to take decisions that might alter their lifestyle almost immediately. One such situation might arise when you realize it’s no longer safe for them to continue work.
A person’s ability to continue in a job depends on the stage of the disease and the type of job they have. If they have to drive to work, the decision to discontinue becomes all the more certain. While you discuss the pros and cons of this new situation with your loved one and their doctors, it’s important you consider a few things:
Identify the nature of the person’s work and if it can be pursued in a safe and favorable environment. You might also want to know if the patient is keen on continuing their job as you do not want to snatch away the very identity they’ve worked hard to create for themselves. Lastly, you might also want to consider the financial changes this decision might lead to. If it is viable, look out for ways where they can do what they love doing- only from the comfort of their home and in the presence of a loved one.
Most experienced drivers swear by their skills and reflexes. If you’ve been driving for a while, you’ll know that most often than not you’re probably driving from point A to B by sheer habit. A part of our brain automates processes that are habitual. Therefore, a person can drive back and forth without consciously driving every minute. However, if you do not have the co-ordination or reflexes that’s required (as in the case of patients suffering with Alzheimer’s disease), there’s every chance you’re inching towards an accident every time you step on that gas pedal.
As a care giver, it’s becomes imperative that you have the back of the patient as well as the people who might be negatively impacted as a consequence of their ill health. You must therefore restrict them from driving when they can no longer drive safely, however harsh the decision might seem.
Manage their Finance
Mrs Parker, my neighbor, had been financially independent all her life. She took pride in the fact that she was a self-made person. She fiercely insisted on paying her bills even when it was clear that she couldn’t.
Thankfully, her husband David recognized a way around this situation. He gave her a small amount of change to do as she wished. But ensured he paid her bills and took charge of their fiancé. The mere fact that she had something she could recognize as cash made Mrs Parker feel independent and at peace.
As much as we’d love to deny it, money plays a vital role in everyone’s lives. To the point that we associate it as a token of independence even at a subconscious level. This is primarily why people with Alzheimer’s disease fiercely hold onto everything that they think can give them back a sense of independence and normalcy.
If you think the person is unable to manage their finances, then it’s important you take control of their expenses without making them feel dependent or deprived in any way. It’s also important that you make them feel that they are still-in-charge. If it can make them feel good, then it’s important you take every step to make them feel that way-even if it means you have to set aside a small amount of change as “spending money”.
Handle their Daily Routines
When a person has long gone past the above stages, it’s difficult to think how they are managing their daily routines. In all honestly, they’re probably not managing it as well as they used to and could do with some help. People with Alzheimer’s disease progressively become forgetful, disoriented and isolated. While they might appear to have a flown-blown conversation with you, there’s no guarantee that they’ll manage the same the next time around. In addition to this, there’s no guarantee that they’re managing their daily routines such as medication and personal hygiene either. This automatically puts their safety at risk.
Cannot Live Alone Anymore
While some people welcome the company and feel protected by it, others can feel threatened or challenged. Most therapists suggest a more gradual transition. Choose between first taking the help of a few neighbors to opting for a “meals-on-wheels” like program. Finally, you can have them move in with the family. This will give you a window of time to ease into the changes and roles that are likely to follow.