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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Alzheimer disease (AD) is an irreversible brain disorder that results in the gradual loss of memory. Parts of the brain die and cannot make normal levels of brain chemicals. This causes problems with how you think, behave, and remember things. The disease usually starts at about age 65 to 70 years but can start earlier. A person usually has AD for 2 to 10 years, but some people may live 20 years or more with the disease. The exact cause of AD is not known.
- Medicines may be given to help you think better or to slow the death of brain cells. You may also need medicines to help you feel less depressed, anxious, angry, or restless. These medicines can also help you sleep better. Medicines can also help with bladder and bowel control or to control delusions (false beliefs) and hallucinations.
- Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.
Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:
Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.
Care for someone who has AD:
- Keep activities the same from day to day. People with AD do best with daily routines. Take breaks often. Save difficult activities for when the person seems the most alert. Choose activities that the person is interested in doing. Help the person get started and try to break difficult activities into small steps.
- Keep mealtimes at the same time each day. It is best to limit food choices. Eating patterns may change in people with AD. It may help to have the person eat small meals and snacks. Ask healthcare providers about giving vitamins if you do not think the person is eating enough.
- Get regular exercise. Regular exercise may help decrease depression and anxiety and improve sleep. Walking is a good exercise for people with AD. Check local senior centers for information about group exercise activities.
- Learn to recognize pain or discomfort. Noisy breathing or rigid body movements may be a sign of pain. A sad or scared look may also mean the person is having discomfort. The person may also constantly make certain noises when he or she is in pain.
- Provide personal care. Make sure to check the water temperature of the bath or shower so they do not burn themselves. It may help to choose and lay out clothes each night for them to wear the next day. Make sure to brush the person's teeth or dentures daily. Do not forget to take the person to the dentist for exams.
- Provide a safe environment. Go through the house and remove things that could cause accidents. Make sure household cleaners and medicines are out of reach. You may need to remove the stove burner knobs and hide matches and lighters to prevent injury. Remove loose rugs to prevent falls. Keep doors and windows tightly closed to prevent wandering or other injuries. If the person smokes, make sure cigarettes are always put out.
- Keep the person with AD active and awake during the day. Limit how much liquid the person drinks in the evening. This may help him or her sleep through the night. Make sure that the person goes to bed at the same time every night.
- Use short words or sentences when speaking to the person with AD. Call the person by name and speak slowly, clearly, and calmly. Use short words and sentences. Use the same words if you have to repeat yourself. Do not ask too many questions. Do not argue with the person.
- Create a bathroom schedule. This may mean reminding the person to urinate every 4 hours. Be aware of the person's bowel movement routine and keep it the same.
- Prevent wandering. New door locks may be needed to keep the person from going outside alone. An alarm system near doors may tell you if the person wanders out. Have the person wear a necklace or bracelet with their name and phone number on it in case they wander away from you and are found by someone else.
Care for the family care provider:
- AD also affects the family and friends who care for the person. As the disease gets worse, family and friends may feel frustrated and resentful no matter how much they love the person. AD may cause financial problems, which adds more stress to those caring for the person. Be sure to visit your healthcare provider if you feel overwhelmed.
- People with AD may be cared for at home instead of at a nursing home, especially in the early and middle stages of the illness. It is important for the family healthcare provider to be trained so that he can understand what is happening and learn ways to help. Support services are available that help the person with AD stay at home longer. Ask your healthcare providers about training to learn how to care for someone with AD. Ask for more information about programs to help care for someone with AD:
- Adult day care is a program the person with AD can go to for part of every day. It is held in a center with other adults who may have AD.
- Respite care is a temporary service. Patients may stay in a nursing home for a limited number of days. This service is especially helpful if the family healthcare provider needs to go away for a few days. It can also be used when the family healthcare provider needs a break from caregiving.
For more information:
- Alzheimer's Association
225 N.Michigan Ave, FL 17
Chicago , IL 60601-7633
Phone: 1- 800 - 272-3900
Web Address: http://www.alz.org
- Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center
P.O. Box 8250
Silver Spring , MD 20907
P.O. Box 8250
Silver Spring , MD 20907
Phone: 1- 800 - 4384380
Web Address: http://www.alzheimers.org
Contact your healthcare provider if:
- You have a fever.
- You have a rash or your skin is itchy and swollen.
- You are depressed and have difficulty coping with your symptoms.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.