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Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month: FAQs about Alzheimer’s

Worldwide, 47 million people are living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. No matter how common it may be, Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging. June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month. Here are some important things everyone should know about Alzheimer’s and dementia. (Facts and figures below provided by the Alzheimer’s Association.) What is Alzheimer’s? Alzheimer’s is a disease that attacks the brain. It is defined by progressive mental deterioration that can occur in middle or old age due to generalized degeneration of the brain. It is the most common form of dementia. Because it is a progressive disease, symptoms gradually worsen over the years. In its early stages, memory loss is mild, but late-stage Alzheimer’s can affect an individual’s ability to communicate and respond to his or her environment. Who is affected by Alzheimer’s? Alzheimer’s disease affects an estimated 5.5 million Americans of all ages. By 2050, this number could rise as high as 16 million. Every 66 seconds, someone in the U.S. develops Alzheimer’s. Of those living with Alzheimer’s disease, 5.3 million are age 65 and older. About one in 10 people age 65 and older has Alzheimer’s. Almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women. What are the signs of Alzheimer’s? If your loved one is experiencing a decline in memory, thinking or reasoning skills, it may be a sign your loved one has Alzheimer’s or dementia. Here are some of the common symptoms of Alzheimer’s. (Signs and symptoms may vary from one individual to the next.) • Memory loss that disrupts daily life • Challenges in planning or solving problems •...

The Unique Challenges Faced by Millennial Caregivers

Older teenagers and young adults in their 20s aren’t the people we picture when we think of “caregivers.” Often we think of older adults, caring for much older parents. But it’s becoming more and more common for the younger generation—some not yet out of high school—to step in as caregivers for aging and ailing parents and grandparents. Read...

Help End Alzheimer’s on The Longest Day

On the longest day of the year — the summer solstice on June 21 — you’re invited to team up with the Alzheimer’s Association to help end Alzheimer’s. The Longest Day is an event all about love. Love for those affected by Alzheimer’s. The Alzheimer’s Association invites you to join with family and friends across the country and the world to raise funds and awareness to help end Alzheimer’s disease. More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s today. By 2050, this number could rise as high as 16 million, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Every 66 seconds, someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s. It is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Together, with the Alzheimer’s Association, you can help raise awareness for care and support while advancing research toward finding a cure. Why June 21? The duration of the sunrise-to-sunset event on the longest day of the year symbolizes the challenging journey faced by those living with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers. Teams are encouraged to turn their passions and hobbies into unique experiences they can share with others as they participate in The Longest Day to honor those living with the disease. Here’s how you can participate: Select an activity you love. Do something you love — or honor a caregiver, someone living with Alzheimer’s, or someone you’ve lost by selecting his or her favorite hobby. Pick a way to participate. Start or join a team, host an event, or register as an individual. Choose the way that works best for you! Raise money to move the cause forward. To advance...

Mental Health Awareness Month: Depression and Dementia

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and we would be remiss if we didn’t take some time to discuss how mental health issues can affect those living with dementia and their caregivers. Depression is commonly associated with Alzheimer’s. Experts estimate that up to 40 percent of people living with Alzheimer’s disease suffer from significant depression. Identifying depression in someone living with dementia or Alzheimer’s isn’t always easy, but it’s important that family and caregivers keep an eye out for the symptoms of depression and seek help if they suspect their loved one may be depressed. Many symptoms of Alzheimer’s mimic the symptoms of depression, such as apathy, social withdrawal, isolation, difficulty concentrating, and loss of interest in activities. Someone with dementia who is also suffering from depression may experience sadness, hopelessness and guilt, among other feelings, but they will often find it difficult to articulate these feelings due to cognitive impairment as a result of the dementia. Depression in someone with dementia may be less severe, or have symptoms that come and go. No matter how severe, if you notice any signs of depression in your loved one, discuss them with your loved one’s primary care provider. Diagnosis and treatment of depression can be especially helpful and may improve your loved one’s ability to function and overall sense of well-being. Talk to your loved one’s doctor about getting a referral to a geriatric psychiatrist who specializes in diagnosing and treating depression in senior adults. Diagnosing Depression in Alzheimer’s According to the National Institute of Mental Health, in order for a person with dementia to be diagnosed with depression, he...

The Role of Occupational Therapy in Dementia Care

People living with dementia experience impaired cognition which may be seen in decreased short-term memory, decreased problem solving skills, decreased perceptual skills and personality changes. While there is no “cure” for dementia, various types of therapy may help an individual with dementia live independently as long as possible. April is Occupational Therapy Month and we want to recognize the ways in which occupational therapists can help those living with dementia. First, occupational therapists can educate family members, caregivers and those in the early stages of dementia about the disease and its functional implications. “Although remediation of cognitive performance is not likely, the person may demonstrate improved function through compensation or adaptation. Occupational therapy practitioners also assist care providers to help them cope with this difficult, and yet often rewarding, role.” (aota.org) Through an evaluation of the environment and certain adaptations, occupational therapists can assist someone living with dementia to live in their own homes as long as possible. For those living in long-term care and adult day health settings, occupational therapists can help individuals retain existing function for as long as possible. According to The American Occupational Therapists Association (AOTA) there are various approaches an occupational therapist might use to aid an individual living with dementia. These include: Health Promotion. Focusing on strengths of clients and promoting wellness of care providers to promote maximal performance in preferred activities. Remediation. Restoration of physical skills (range of motion, strength, and endurance) Maintenance. Identify what is working well in the daily routine of the person living with dementia and provide supports to help the individual maintain skills for as long as possible...