November is National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, so it’s a good time to examine the causes of this disease, how to recognize symptoms in yourself and in loved ones, and what preventive measures and resources are out there once those symptoms begin to manifest.
Alzheimer’s is a cognitive condition in which the brain suffers a slow decline in memory, thought process and reasoning skills.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the disease is the most common form of dementia and is now the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. The disease affects more than 5 million people nationwide, and the problem is likely to get worse.
Cases of Alzheimer’s in the U.S. are expected to grow to 7.1 million – more than 40 percent – during the next 10 years.
More than 83,000 Orange County residents have or are at immediate risk for Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, making it the fourth-leading cause of death here.
This means that you or someone you love will likely develop Alzheimer’s and the need for caregivers and resources is multiplying almost exponentially.
Alzheimer’s affects everyone differently, but there are common symptoms that serve as early warning signs.
Many of those symptoms are mistakenly believed to be age or stress-related when they’re first identified, which means they’re often not treated quickly enough. Many people with mild cognitive impairments eventually develop Alzheimer’s.
The most common Alzheimer’s symptom is an inability to remember recent events or recently learned information. A person might start forgetting important dates or appointments, or they might start asking for the same information repeatedly.
If you start noticing symptoms in yourself or a loved one, here some tips on how to attend to and manage these changes:
• Alert a physician immediately and complete diagnostic testing such as advanced brain imaging and clinical examinations to determine the severity of the situation.
• Make and keep an observation list of symptoms and concerns with details about frequency, nature and setting.
• Establish a daily routine that provides a sense of structure and includes regular exercise, a healthy diet and activities that stimulate the difference senses.
• Watch for and treat any medical changes or developing conditions.
• Create a care team that will help implement the daily routine and handle any difficulties that occur.
• Communicate in a calm manner and be patient.
As Alzheimer’s disease advances into later stages and the level of supervision increases, there also are in-home and assisted-living options available.
Villagio, an Oakmont Senior Living community in Brea, is the region’s newest facility that specializes in caring for individuals with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. These types of communities offer unique therapy programs and services that improve communication, mood, activity level and interaction, while giving individuals a meaningful lifestyle with a sense of independence.
By AMY WILCOX / GUEST COLUMNIST
– Amy Wilcox is the marketing director of Oakmont Senior Living’s Villagio in Brea, and marketing chairwoman of the Alzheimer’s Association Southland Chapter.