When is memory loss actually Alzheimer’s?

As we age, we forget things. It’s a natural part of life. Yet, sometimes we worry that memory loss is a sign of something more serious, like dementia.

Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia, but it’s not the only cause of memory loss. Other types of dementia include:

  • Vascular dementia. Often related to stroke, it affects the ability to make decisions, plan or organize.
  • Lewy body dementia (LBD). LBD causes symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s, along with sleep disturbances, hallucinations and muscle rigidity.
  • Frontotemporal dementia (FTD). FTD leads to changes in personality and behavior, and trouble with language.

What is Alzheimer’s?

Over time, we all lose nerve cells that help our brains function. But people with Alzheimer’s lose far more cells due to clusters of protein that attach to nerve cells and cause damage.

Older people are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s, but we don’t yet know why some have it and others don’t.

How do I know if my loved one may have Alzheimer’s?

Alzheimer’s symptoms begin with memory loss, but progress to confusion and the inability to perform daily tasks. Talk to your doctor if your loved one:

  • Is confused about day and time.
  • Can’t remember recent events.
  • Has trouble focusing on tasks.
  • Has trouble doing things that usually come easily.
  • Doesn’t recognize family or friends.
  • Has trouble communicating or finding words.
  • Has mood swings.
  • Gets lost easily.
  • Becomes clumsy or uncoordinated.

The Alzheimer’s Association provides this checklist to record changes in mental alertness or abilities. You can complete it and take it to your loved one’s doctor’s appointment.

How do I support a loved one who has Alzheimer’s?

Dealing with Alzheimer’s can be overwhelming. Stop. Take a deep breath. With the right tools and a little help, you can face it head on.

Be Realistic

It can feel like Alzheimer’s robs our loved ones of their memories and their lives. Avoiding the issue might feel like a good way to reduce the emotional and physical stress it brings. But Alzheimer’s won’t go away. Empower yourself. Work with a care team to understand the disease and the care options. Together, you can find much-needed support.

Don’t ignore the symptoms or delay talking to a doctor. Left untreated, this condition can lead to an accident or serious incident.

Ask for Help

Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s is a big responsibility, but you don’t have to do it alone. Ask your friends and family for help and call on other resources when you need them. Consider the following programs and services:

  • Support groups: Connect with others who share your challenges to get help, perspective and advice. Find a local or virtual support group through the Alzheimer’s Association or an Arden Courts memory care location near you.
  • Home care: Home visits from experienced home health care and hospice specialists may help your loved one in the comfort of their own environment. Home care teams can help with medicines, physical therapy and social interactions.
  • Memory care communities: If your loved one needs more care than you can provide at home, consider a community specially designed for people living with memory loss. It’s never an easy decision to move loved ones from their homes, but it may be the best choice to ensure their health and safety.
  • Skilled nursing and rehabilitation: When considering care facilities, keep in mind skilled nursing and rehabilitation facilities can provide support for people living with some stages of Alzheimer’s.

Be Patient With Yourself

Alzheimer’s is an emotional disease. It’s okay to be frustrated or hurt by a loved one’s memory loss. Be honest with yourself about how you feel and find healthy outlets for your emotions. You will experience moments of triumph, joy and connectedness with your loved one. Pause to appreciate those moments.

Seek Professional Help

ProMedica provides support, education and information for caregivers and family members. If you have questions about Alzheimer’s and the types of care available, contact an Arden Courts near you.