Here at Assisting Hands West Houston, we provide superb and loving in-home care for those in need, especially for those who are elderly, infirm, and/or living with conditions such as dementia or Alzheimer’s. If you are caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s in West Houston or Katy, Texas and have questions, read on.
What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that causes memory loss, cognitive decline, and behavioral changes. In the United States it is one of the most common (if not the most common) causes of dementia, and affects many people in the Houston area.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, currently, more than 400,000 Texans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, and over 1,000,000 family and friends are providing care.
What is Dementia?
The term “dementia” refers to a general condition that involves memory loss, as well as a deterioration of the standard use of language, problem-solving and other thinking abilities that are severe enough to interfere with daily life.
What is the Difference between Dementia and Alzheimer’s?
Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. It is caused by damage to the brain that affects memory, thinking, reasoning, behavior, and emotions.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, accounting for 60-80% of all cases. It is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that causes the brain to shrink and brain cells to die.
The main difference between Alzheimer’s disease and dementia is that Alzheimer’s is a specific disease, while dementia is a general term for a group of symptoms. In other words, every case of Alzheimer’s disease is an example of dementia, but not every type of dementia is Alzheimer’s.
What causes Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is caused by the abnormal build-up of proteins in and around brain cells. These proteins, called amyloid and tau, form plaques and tangles that disrupt communication between nerve cells and eventually lead to cell death.
However, the exact cause of Alzheimer’s is unknown. Some believe it is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Some risk factors for Alzheimer’s include:
- Age – Alzheimer’s is most common in people over the age of 65, but it can develop in younger people as well.
- Family history – If you have a family member with Alzheimer’s, you are at an increased risk of developing the disease yourself.
- Head injury – A history of head injury may increase your risk of Alzheimer’s.
- Certain medical conditions – Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure, may increase your risk of Alzheimer’s.
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease
If you’re currently caring for someone with Alzheimer’s in Houston, then you probably already know that the symptoms of the disease often develop gradually over time. In the early stages, symptoms often include:
- Mild memory loss, such as forgetting names or appointments
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- Changes in mood or personality
- Language problems, such as trouble finding the right words
- Difficulty performing familiar tasks, such as driving or cooking
In the later stages of the disease, symptoms become more severe and include:
- Significant memory loss and confusion
- Difficulty understanding and following instructions
- Disorientation and wandering
- Behavioral changes, such as aggression or agitation
- Loss of the ability to care for oneself
Managing Alzheimer’s Disease
Unfortunately, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, but there are treatments that can help manage the symptoms and slow the progression of the disease. These treatments include medications, lifestyle changes, and cognitive training, as well as lifestyle changes such as exercise and a healthy diet. In addition, researchers are constantly making improvements to treatments and learning more about how the disease works.
Early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is important so that treatment can begin and loved ones can make the most of the time available.
Tips for Caregivers of Those With Alzheimer’s
The most important thing you can do at the outset is to educate yourself about Alzheimer’s disease. The more you know about the disease, the better prepared you will be to care for your loved one. There are many resources available online and from Alzheimer’s associations, including this article you’re reading right now.
In addition, you should create a safe and supportive environment. This includes removing clutter from the home, installing grab bars in the bathroom, and making sure there is adequate lighting. It is also important to be patient and understanding, meet them where they are and provide your loved one with a sense of security. As part of this, you can:
- Establish a daily routine. This will help your loved one feel more grounded and less confused. The routine should include things like mealtimes, bathing, and bedtime.
- Stay active. Physical activity and mental stimulation are important for everyone, but especially for people with Alzheimer’s. Encourage your loved one to participate in activities that they enjoy, such as walking, gardening, or reading.
- Validate your loved one’s feelings. Even if their feelings are not based in reality, it is important to acknowledge them and let them know that you understand. This can be one of the most painful aspects of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s, but that’s why it’s also one of the most important.
- Communicate effectively. Use simple language and speak slowly and clearly. Make eye contact and use gestures to help get your point across.
- Be patient and understanding. Your loved one may not always understand what is happening or be able to communicate their needs. Try to stay calm and patient.
- Connect with other caregivers. Support groups create a safe and supportive environment and can help caregivers with solving problems and gaining insight into caring for a loved one. Find support groups in the Houston and Katy area through the Alzheimer Association website.
- Take Care of Yourself, Too. It is important for caregivers to take care of their own physical and mental health. This means getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, and exercising regularly. It is also important to find time for yourself to relax and de-stress. Caregiving can be overwhelming. It is important to take breaks when you need them. Ask for help from family and friends, or consider respite care services.
Need Help? Call Assisting Hands West Houston Today
Alzheimer’s is a neurodegenerative disease that gradually destroys memory and thinking skills, and eventually the ability to carry out the simplest tasks. It affects millions of people worldwide and is the most common cause of dementia in older adults. If you’re currently caring for someone with Alzheimer’s in the West Houston or Katy, Texas area and need help, call Assisting Hands West Houston today at 281.369.5858.