The month of November, every year, is designated as Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. President Reagan proclaimed this back in 1983 and it has been observed every year since then.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, at that time there were less than two million people with the disease. Unfortunately, through the years that number has grown to more than six million, just here in the U.S. alone. And, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, as the life span increases and people live into their senior years, this number will continue to grow.
November: Alzheimer’s Disease, No Cure Yet
Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia that leads to memory, thinking, behavior problems — and poor quality of life. It is the most prevalent form of dementia, accounting for 60 to 80 percent of all cases. It is also the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. There is no cure at this time.
Alzheimer’s disease gets worse with time and eventually the person becomes helpless and needs constant care. Symptoms are severe memory loss, no awareness of their environment and inability to take care of themselves.
Once their symptoms become noticeable, Alzheimer’s patients typically only live an average of eight years.
The majority of Alzheimer’s patients are ages 65 and older — but there are thousands of others under the age of 65 who have early-onset Alzheimer’s.
Despite years of research and billions of research dollars, there is no current cure for this disease. At best, there are some treatments that only slow down the progression of this disease.
Part of Alzheimer’s disease awareness is knowing the symptoms so you can know whether a loved one may be developing it. These symptoms include:
- Memory Loss – People may forget things they’ve learned as well as dates and events. They may also ask for the same information over and over again.
- Trouble Planning or Solving Problems – It takes more and more time to solve even the simplest of problems or complete easy tasks. You may also notice they have trouble following directions.
- Confusion with Time or Place – People with Alzheimer’s often lose track of time. They forget which day it is. And, they can also forget where they are and even how they got there.
- Misplacing Things & Unable to Retrace Steps – As people forget dates and events they may also start to misplace objects. This may lead them to accuse others of stealing because they can no longer find what’s theirs.
- Mood & Personality Changes – Because of the changes that are going on in their mind, you may notice major shifts in mood and personality. They may become confused, suspicious and even depressed.
No Cure, But You Can Still Help Them
Although there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, here are a few things you can do to keep them comfortable.
- Keep a Daily Routine – This helps to avoid confusion and lets the person know what can be expected.
- Don’t Overstimulate – Keep things simple. Say one thing at a time. Present only one idea so that the person can understand it.
- Reassure – Always try to make the person feel safe and comfortable.
- Don’t Yell or Argue – As frustrated as you may get, imagine how the patient feels. They can no longer grasp what is going on inside their own heads. Don’t yell or argue out of frustration. Be calm.
Taking care of an Alzheimer’s patient as the disease progresses become very difficult. If this is the case for you or your family, it may be time to consider a skilled nursing facility that can provide great around the clock care.
November: Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month Activities
During Alzheimer’s disease awareness month, organizations like the Alzheimer’s Association educate the public about the disease.
In the months leading up to November, there are often many “memory walks” to raise awareness about the disease and to also raise money for research. You can find a walk near you and find out more about how you can get involved.
One thing you can do for yourself is to take part in the National Memory Screening Program. This free program is available around the country. It provides confidential memory screenings to anyone who is interested. This is an excellent way to see if you or a loved one is experiencing memory problems.
While November is the designated month, you should be aware of the signs of Alzheimer’s disease all year long. Join the fight to find the cure.