Valentine’s Day kicks off National Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia Care Education Week February 14-21.
This Valentine’s Day, take a moment to send warm thoughts to Alzheimer’s and dementia patients, practitioners, caregivers, and family members. The National Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners (NCCDP) promotes a week-long education and awareness campaign each year.
It can be challenging to know how to support and communicate with individuals who suffer from memory loss and cognitive decline. Please keep reading to learn more about ways to observe Alzheimer’s and dementia education week, memory-boosting tips, and ways to reduce stress on patients and their families.
What You Should Know About Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, especially in older individuals. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, one out of every nine Americans aged 65 and older has the disease. It is a progressive, incurable brain disease that affects memory, thinking, behavior, and, in later stages, physical abilities and bodily functions. One in three older Americans passes away with some form of dementia, more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.
Nearly 13 million Americans will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s by 2050.
Alzheimer’s Fast Facts:
- Over six million Americans currently live with Alzheimer’s
- 500,000 new cases diagnosed each year
- Over 11 million unpaid caregivers provided 15.3 billion hours of care in 2020
- National cost of Alzheimer’s and dementia in 2021: $355 billion
- 2/3 of Alzheimer’s patients are women
- Five FDA-approved medications to treat Alzheimer’s
- Earlier diagnosis helps slow the disease’s progression
How You Can Observe Alzheimer’s & Dementia Education Week
Even if you or a family member is not personally affected by Alzheimer’s, you probably have friends and neighbors who are. There are several easy ways to participate in this year’s education week.
Know the 10 Early Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease
As we age, our brain cells grow older, too. Age-related forgetfulness is not necessarily an early warning sign of Alzheimer’s. The following can help distinguish between typical “senior moments” and potential dementia.
1. Memory Loss that Disrupts Everyday Life
- Forgetting important events and appointments and not recalling them later
- Repeating the same questions
- Increasing reliance on reminders (such as alarms or written notes)
2. Difficulty Solving Problems or Planning
- Unable to manage personal finances, such as paying bills
- Taking longer to complete familiar tasks
- Difficulty following a plan, such as a commonly-used recipe
3. Struggles to Complete Familiar Tasks
- Trouble driving to a familiar location, such as the grocery store
- Cannot remember rules to a game they often play
- Difficulty with lists and forms
4. Confusion with Place and Time
- Loses track of the month or season
- Forgetting where they are or how they got there
- Mixes up events from the past and the present
5. Issues with Visual Images & Spatial Relationships
- Problems with balance and coordination
- Difficulty with color and contrast
- Cannot accurately assess the distance between objects
6. Struggles with Written & Verbal Communication
- Difficult naming a familiar thing or calling it the wrong name
- Takes longer to follow a conversation or write a sentence
- Repeating the same statement or conversation
7. Misplaces Items
- Loses things and is unable to retrace steps
- Puts items in unusual or illogical locations
- Accuses others of stealing or hiding things
8. Impaired Judgement
- Exhibits poor judgment about finances and other matters
- Decline in proper decision making
- Loses interest or awareness of personal cleanliness and hygiene
9. Withdraws from Activities
- Skips regular activities due to declining memory loss
- Difficulty following a favorite pastime or sport
- Refuses to attend gatherings and social functions
10. Changes in Personality & Mood
- Becomes easily agitated
- Appears suspicious or paranoid
- Exhibits signs of depression, fear, or anxiety
What to Do if These Symptoms Apply to You or a Loved One
Recognizing these symptoms in yourself or another person doesn’t necessarily indicate Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia.The Alzheimer’s Association advises that you (or your loved one) visit your doctor. Only a licensed medical professional can accurately evaluate memory loss and other factors that indicate the onset of Alzheimer’s.
Here is a convenient checklist of questions to ask your doctor if you are concerned about possible Alzheimer’s symptoms.
Easy Ways to Improve Your Brain Health
Just like walking or swimming enhances your physical health, you can train your brain. Studies suggest that certain activities, such as crossword puzzles, can improve mental speed and strengthen connections between brain cells.
Whether you want to sit down with the Times’ crossword or download an app, here are a few suggestions to train your brain:
- Crossword puzzles
- Jigsaw puzzles
- Word finds
- Board games
- Card games
Nutrition, Social Contact & Other Factors that Influence Brain Health
In addition to brain-boosting activities, you can learn about other factors that influence brain health, such as diet, nutrition, exercise, and social engagement. Watch this short video from the Alzheimer’s Association to learn more.
You can help spread the news about national Alzheimer’s and dementia care week on social media. Use the hashtag #AlzheimersDementiaCareEducationWeek on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, and all your social media.
Alzheimer’s, Dementia & End-of-Life Planning
A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia can make patients and family members feel like they have no control over their future. There will be a time when patients may lack the legal capacity to express their wishes for end-of-life care.
The Alzheimer’s Association offers these suggestions for end-of-life planning.
- Choose another person to decide finances, medical treatment, and property when the patient is incapacitated.
- Make legal arrangements for beneficiaries with a will or trust.
- Select long-term care or skilled care facility.
- Prepare for other health care and life needs.
A comprehensive end-of-life plan should include wishes for final arrangements: traditional burial, traditional cremation, or direct cremation.
Alzheimer’s and dementia bring uncertainty, but you or a loved one can enjoy peace of mind that your wishes will be respected, no matter what. Find a ShareLife provider today to learn more.