Caring for a loved one with a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease or related dementias can pose challenges for the person with the diagnosis, their caregivers and the family in general. Nearly 15 million Americans provide some form of unpaid care to a person with Alzheimer's disease or another form of dementia.
One of the most important "lessons" caregivers need to learn is not related to the disease but is actually about the need for caregivers to pace themselves as they care for a loved one. This disease can be a lengthy one and the behavior and caregiving challenges will often change over time as the disease progresses. It is extremely important that caregivers take good care of themselves (don't give up activities you enjoy!) and also learn how to ask others for help. "I can do it alone" is not a healthy outlook!
Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia in older adults accounting for approximately 75 percent of the diagnoses. Although the cause of Alzheimer's disease is not fully understood, research shows that changes in the brain can occur decades before symptoms arise.
Preventing Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia has received a lot of attention in the media over the past several years. Some researchers believe this disease is closely related to the lifestyle choices we make throughout our lives, such as the kinds of food we eat, whether we exercise, take part in social activities, challenge our brains with new experiences, etc.
Additionally, many communities are working hard to become more "dementia-friendly" by adding programs and activities that families can safely and comfortably take their loved ones to. Orlando has a brand new choir for both the caregivers and those with the diagnosis called the Musical Minds Choir. The Orlando Museum of Art sponsors a special art program for caregivers and their loved ones called Art's the Spark.
On Friday November 20th from 4:30 to 7:00 the Alzheimer's and Dementia Resource Center is also offering families a special way to take part in holiday activities. We will be sponsoring a wonderful holiday event called Pasta and Poinsettias. Caregivers are encouraged to bring their loved ones with them to enjoy a home-made pasta dinner with salad, garlic bread and dessert while also bidding on holiday-related silent auction items.
Although researchers are continually expanding our knowledge base related to this group of diseases, we still have a lot to learn about how these diseases develop and the best methods for treating the symptoms throughout the course of the disease. What is of greatest importance to families, however, is to make their loved one's quality of life the very best it can be every single day. That's a goal the entire community should strive to accomplish.
Nancy Squillacioti is the executive director of the Alzheimer's & Dementia Resource Center in Orlando. She can be reached at Nancy@ADRCcares.org