World Alzheimer’s Day takes place on 21 September. Its aim, along with events throughout September, is to raise awareness and challenge the stigma that persists around Alzheimer’s disease and other kinds of dementia. 2022 is focusing on the importance of support for people living with dementia and their families following a diagnosis. It’s a theme that’s close to the hearts of us all at Comfort Keepers. World Alzheimer’s month is a golden opportunity for people across the globe to come together, share experiences and inspire one another. Read on to find out more.
What’s Been Happening in Ireland?
There are lots of opportunities for local charity events with a big Alzheimer’s Memory Walk planned for 18 September.
Thousands of walkers throughout Ireland signed up to participate in the event with the aim of raising €250,000 for vital support services. You can find out more about Alzheimer’s fund-raising events taking place in Ireland here.
Estimates put the number of people living with dementia in Ireland at 64,000, a figure likely to more than double over the next 25 years or so. Many of them will have family members who help and care for them.
Experts say the cost of dementia could be a staggering 1,69 billion euros a year with almost three-quarters of long-term care residents having some form of dementia.
Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia Explained
There are currently no drug treatments that cure Alzheimer’s disease or other common dementias. However, there is plenty of exciting and encouraging research going on and there is a lot we can do to help and improve the lives of those who have dementia.
The main characteristic of dementia is a deterioration in cognitive function that is greater than what we’d expect from typical biological ageing. Although not inevitable in old age, dementia mainly affects the elderly.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, making up between 60 and 70 percent of cases. Dementia is the seventh leading cause of death from diseases and a major reason that older people become more dependent on others.
Getting a Dementia Diagnosis
Hearing a health professional tell you that you have dementia can be very difficult to take in. It is quite normal to experience a range of emotions from shock to fear and anger. It takes time to process the full implications of what a diagnosis can mean.
Nobody should underestimate how challenging this can be. It’s important to have someone who you trust that you can share your feelings with. In some instances, this may initially be a doctor or a dementia expert.
Knowledge is empowering but it can be easy to find a lot of misinformation on the internet or to simply focus on some of dementia’s bleaker symptoms. People also experience dementia differently.
The best advice is to form your own tailor-made support network. That might include friends and family members but also health professionals or experienced experts from charitable organisations who can provide you with accurate information delivered in a sensitive way.
What Are the Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s disease tends to progress at a slow pace over several years. It can be easy to mix it up with other conditions because so many of the symptoms can be similar. How fast a person’s cognitive functions deteriorate varies from person to person.
Strokes and infections can cause some symptoms to be even worse. Some types of medication can also play into the symptoms of dementia.
Those whose symptoms deteriorate quickly should see a doctor. It may be possible to mitigate some of the adverse effects of dementia by treating other underlying conditions.
The 3 Main Stages of Alzheimer’s disease
It can be useful to break down Alzheimer’s disease into its 3 major phases. These are as follows:
1. The Early Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease
In its first stage, the key symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are lapses in memory. This can include:
- An inability to recall recent events or conversations
- Putting familiar items such as books or crockery back in the wrong place
- Not being able to remember the names of places and objects
- Difficulty in coming up with the correct word
- Asking the same questions over and over again
- Making poor judgements or finding it tricky to make decisions
- Being less flexible and warier about trying out new things
Sometimes this phase comes with mood changes and an increase in anxiety. People can appear to get agitated or confused more easily.
2. The Mid-Stage Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease
When Alzheimer’s disease begins to take hold, memory issues will worsen. Those with the condition may find it even harder to recall the names of friends or family and may have difficulty recognising people they see regularly.
Other potential symptoms include:
- Wandering off and getting lost
- An ability to distinguish the time of day
- Behaviour that becomes obsessive or impulsive
- Getting suspicious about family members or carers
- Speech and language issues
- Interrupted sleep
- Frequent mood swings
- Feelings of depression, frustration and anxiety
- Problems with judging distances and a loss of spatial awareness
- Suffering from hallucinations and delusion
Some people also may also suffer similar symptoms to those with vascular dementia such as problems concentrating or difficulties with understanding.
It’s at this stage that those with Alzheimer’s disease typically need support to help them with day-to-day living. That might mean help with eating, washing, getting dressed and using the toilet.
This is where Comfort Keepers can step in and provide the necessary support in a person’s own home. Because Alzheimer’s can take hold slowly, it’s possible to maintain a level of dignified independence at home with the right homecare support.
3. The Later Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease
As the disease develops, its symptoms get more and more severe. This can be very distressing not only for the person with the condition but also for members of their friends and family.
It’s at times like these that Comfort Keepers can offer respite care to give those who may be looking after someone they love at home a well-deserved break. Having someone to share the load so that you can get away for a quick coffee with a friend can make the world of difference to you when you’re a primary carer.
The symptoms someone with Alzheimer’s disease is already experiencing may worsen and they can also become violent and extremely demanding. Other symptoms that can crop up as the disease develops include:
- Problems eating and swallowing
- Finding it hard to change position or move about without help
- Rapid weight loss
- Becoming incontinent
- A loss of speech and memory
Alzheimer’s Disease and Homecare
Ireland’s HSE offers support that’s free of charge through its Home Support Service. Although primarily aimed at those over the age of 65, it is also open to those with disabilities or early-onset dementia.
There is a process involved to apply for homecare help but, compared to many initiatives, it’s relatively simple and straightforward. There is no means-testing involved and you do not have to have a medical card.
Comfort Keepers is a government-approved homecare provider. It steps in on behalf of the HSE to provide the homecare services paid for by the state. It can also offer a continuity of service through extra services or hours of service paid for privately.
Our highly experienced carers provide the support and assistance required in the home to families and their loved ones. Senior members of the Comfort Keepers team will work with you to develop a care plan tailored to individual needs.
Comfort Keepers offers a full range of homecare services for those with Alzheimer’s. These include:
- Short- or long-term ongoing care
- Daily help with personal care and getting in and out of bed
- Running errands, helping with medication adherence and shopping
- Household tasks such as meal preparation and laundry
- Help to engage in activities to stimulate the mind and body
Support for Alzheimer’s Carers
Some people who look after the homecare of a person with Alzheimer’s disease do not immediately consider themselves carers, especially when the person with dementia is a partner, parent or close friend.
It’s vital that both you and the person with dementia get the support they need to cope with the disease’s symptoms along with changes in behaviour. Comfort Keepers is able to offer respite care to family members or friends who act as primary carers.
We have a useful section here that outlines the various benefits that might be available to carers.
Wherever you are on the Alzheimer’s journey, there are plenty of things you can do that will help. These include:
- Finding out about the disease, its effects and the best responses to it
- Being patient with yourself: a diagnosis takes time to adjust to
- Understanding that people react to serious diagnoses in different ways
- Engaging in conversation with the person who has dementia
- Drawing in other friends and family members for support
- Making time for yourself!
Let Comfort Keepers Support You!
Comfort Keepers is a key player in Ireland’s homecare support structure for those with Alzheimer’s disease. We have many years of experience in helping those with dementia along with their loved ones.
World Alzheimer’s month is rightly focussing on the homecare support needed by those who receive an Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis along with their families and friends.
Find out more about how Comfort Keepers can help by getting in touch with us today.