Alzheimer’s and Brain Health affects more than the patient

Published 12:37 pm Monday, June 15, 2015

By Sally Krall

June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Health Awareness Month so I’d like to take this opportunity to pass along some valuable information.
5.4 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease. Experts tell us that number may reach 16 million by the year 2050. But Alzheimer’s affects many more than that. It also affects the many people who love and care for the person with Alzheimer’s disease.
Early on, Alzheimer’s presents with mild memory lapses, but tragically ends with the individual forgetting their family, their history, and even their own name. The person will often come to need total care, 24 hours a day, to prevent them from wandering away or injuring themselves in some other fashion.
Researchers are starting to understand the causes of Alzheimer’s more clearly and have identified some risk factors. The greatest risk is simply age. Most people with Alzheimer’s are over the age of 65. The possibility of developing this disease doubles every five years over the age of 65. When a person reaches 85, they have nearly a 50% chance of developing Alzheimer’s.
Another prevalent risk is family history. Having a parent or sibling with Alzheimer’s makes an individual two times more likely to get the disease.
Doctors are now saying there may be a link between serious head injuries and the later onset of Alzheimer’s.
One should take heed when the doctor says to eat healthy, exercise, and stay mentally and socially active. Also listen when told to avoid tobacco use and the excessive consumption of alcohol. Why? Because the risk of developing Alzheimer’s increases with other medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, hypertension, and hypercholesterolemia.
Not all memory loss is Alzheimer’s disease. First, see a doctor for evaluation and diagnosis. If it is determined that you or someone you love has Alzheimer’s, know that you are not alone.
Many resources are available and one of the best ways to access them is to contact the Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC). This can be done by dialing 1-855-937-2372. English can be selected by pressing “1” and Spanish by pressing “2”. After choosing “1” again to indicate assistance is needed with long term care, a prompt will be given to enter your zip code and the call will be directed to the ADRC closest to the caller. ADRC’s are located throughout the state and one can call from Beaumont and speak with a representative in Amarillo about long term care options for their loved one, just by entering a zip code.
The ADRC can assist the caller with locating and accessing services such as: in home personal care, nutrition services, home modifications, respite for the caregiver, benefits applications, support groups and many other long term care services and information.
Should the time come that an individual with Alzheimer’s needs to be placed in a nursing facility for care, the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program (LTCOP) can be of tremendous assistance. The LTCOP can be reached by calling 1-800-395-5465.
An Ombudsman is a resource when considering the placement of a loved one in a long term care facility and can provide information about the admission process. Ombudsmen visit residents in facilities, developing relationships with them, their families, and the facility staff. An Ombudsman advocates for the quality of care the residents receive and the quality of their lives. Should a concern or complaint arise, the Ombudsman will work with the resident and staff to resolve issues. An Ombudsman always maintains confidentiality and their work is always resident directed.
Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or any chronic illness is emotionally and physically exhausting for the family and friends. Remember, you are not alone. Don’t try to do it alone.

Sally Krall, BSW, Staff Ombudsman, a program with the Area Agency on Aging