Having older parents means your family's life is full of changes. From shifting dynamics of responsibility to relocating homes, transition simply comes with time, and health is no exception. Alzheimer's disease, a condition marked by memory and thinking impairments, predominantly affects seniors. According to the Alzheimer's Foundation of America, approximately 5.1 million Americans have this disease, and a person's risk increases with age. If a doctor has diagnosed your loved one with Alzheimer's disease, here's what you can expect:
You'll see more changes down the road
As the Alzheimer's Association explained, this condition is progressive, meaning it gets worse with time. How quickly this occurs varies on an individual basis. Post-diagnosis life spans range anywhere from four to 20 years, which creates a lot of uncertainty. Your parent's doctor can provide more insight into his or her unique condition.
Your parent's memory won't be what it once was
According to the Mayo Clinic, those with mild dementia as a result of Alzheimer's disease often forget things they just learned. For example, your loved one may repeat questions because he or she forgot your original answer. Memory gaps may also cause the senior to lose things - you may spend a few extra minutes looking for his or her wallet before leaving the house, or you'll find the TV remote in another room.
You know how frustrating it is to misplace something, so it's important to remain patient and help the senior search for lost items. Additionally, when it's especially important they remember information - like details from a doctor - ask if you can accompany your parent to the appointment so that you can take notes.
Home management will become more challenging
In addition to memory loss, dementia can also lead to poor decision making. As Reader's Digest explained, the cognitive decline can make it difficult for your parent to manage his or her finances and pay bills. You certainly wouldn't want to see your loved one's water or electricity turned off because of a missed payment, so consider lending a hand with these tasks.
Day-to-day duties may also become more difficult. For instance, your parent may select a winter coat to wear when it's 80 degrees outsides. In these cases, you may benefit from hiring a home health aide to assist with responsibilities like dressing and running errands. Even if the senior can still care for him or herself with eating and bathing, for instance, you can hire someone to drive your parent places, pick up groceries or let the dog out, among other tasks.
Seniors may forget to pick up milk at the grocery store or to return your phone call, but serious memory problems are not a normal part of aging. If you suspect your older loved one has dementia, speak with his or her doctor. Additionally, remember that an Alzheimer's disease diagnosis is an adjustment for everyone. Your parent is likely going through an array of emotions knowing he or she has this condition, and it's important to show love and support.