How You Can Help When a Loved One has Alzheimer’s Disease

Woman Taking Care of an Elderly ManAlzheimer’s disease is an aggressive neurological disorder that slowly breaks down brain cells and inhibits bodily function. The main problem materializes when a person starts to forget things as their brain cells gradually die.

For loved ones, it can be very difficult to see how Alzheimer’s is takes away the independence of the person who has acquired it. It can also get frustrating, especially when the individual is unable to communicate their wants and needs. There are a lot of myths about Alzheimer’s, so we are going to provide the proper procedures to follow as if you find yourself in a position to assist someone who has acquired this debilitating disease.  

Read Up about It

A good way to help is by doing your research regarding Alzheimer’s disease. This can allow you to understand what you should expect and how you can prepare. In many cases, there are common misconceptions about the condition as well that might mar your plans. Always do your research and ensure that you are educated about the condition. This will mean that as your loved one’s condition worsens, you can still do all in your means to make them comfortable.

Similarly, not all forms of Alzheimer’s cause dementia. Dementia only occurs when Alzheimer’s has progressed to a serious stage. The main goal here for you is to understand the condition so that you can offer better support to your loved ones. If you don’t understand it, you cannot help them in a greater capacity, as they need.

  • Healthy Exercises

Just because someone has Alzheimer’s does not mean that they have to stop doing the activities that they’ve enjoyed. In fact, it is actually encouraged that they indulge in activities that can keep their brain healthier for longer time. From gardening and yard work yoga, jogging,  swimming or walking the dog can improve their mood as well as allow them to keep their cognitive thought processes working.

Remember to offer them healthy snacks and water when they are exercising. Also, continue to encourage and interact with them. Whenever possible, allow them to maintain their independence. Alzheimer’s can cause a person to rely heavily on a caretaker. Until that moment, allow them to retain their activities without your assistance. Be careful in some cases though, such as cooking or other activities where a danger may exist. Accidents can occur if the person forgets they are chopping vegetables or they put something in the oven and then forgot about it.

  • Have Realistic Expectations

Alzheimer’s can make a person rather moody and prone to mood swings so you should expect the unexpected. Keep in mind that these patients can fluctuate between good days and bad days. The good days might make you hopeful but things can definitely take a wrong turn with ease. For this reason, be realistic and take each moment as it comes. Also, keep in mind that the good days are not a sign that the disease is diminishing.  

As a degenerative condition, there are treatments available that can slow down the disease but there is no ultimate cure. If your loved one is taking medication for Alzheimer’s, understand that it won’t fix the condition; the medication will just allow them to enjoy their quality of life for longer. It also allows them to adjust to the condition. By understanding and accepting this factor, you can make sure that you have realistic expectations of how the condition will progress.

  • A Predictable Schedule and Routine

One of the major problems with Alzheimer’s is that it can cause confusion on a daily basis. By having a schedule and a routine that is predictable, you can make an Alzheimer’s patient’s life easier. Have meals consistently at the same time; schedule their bathroom breaks, their activities and bedtime. It might feel like looking after a toddler but it allows your loved one to have a set routine that they will not forget so easily.

The routine and monotony of daily life will also allow them to easily handle much of the anxiety and confusion that comes as their condition progresses. Remember to be patient and avoid deviating from the routine as much as possible. Any unexpected changes can trigger anxiety as they are not expecting the change. Moreover, without a consistent routine, it can be difficult for them to remember what they did during the day.

  • Don’t Argue

As they lose their memory, your loved ones will often forget something. They might often believe that they are living in the past or have forgotten that someone has passed away. Never try to argue with them because their failing memory means that they cannot remember what has actually happened. The best thing to do is to gently steer the conversation towards the truth.

If they still insist on something, tell them the truth firmly but avoid arguing. Getting angry for forgetting something will only add to their confusion which in turn, will end up making them angry at their inability to remember. Moreover, as the condition progresses, they will forget so you can’t fault them on this aspect.

  • Emotional Bonds

When a person has Alzheimer’s they can slowly lose their vocabulary as well as their ability to write. They might also forget what certain objects are called and will come up with words for them. An apple could become a red ball. It is very important to read between the lines. When someone with Alzheimer talks to you, you need to listen with your eyes, ears and your heart.

In many cases, the person might not remember an event but they still remember the emotions they felt. Capitalize on this aspect by developing and improving your emotional bonds with them. Listen to music, read out loud to them and try to paint. Moreover, always remember to hug them and let them know they are loved by your actions and your words.

Minibrains Could Help in Treatment of Alzheimer’s Patients

Alzheimer’s is an untreatable progressive brain disease that slowly devastates the memory and conceptual skills of the affected individual. The disease was first identified by Dr. Alois Alzheimer in 1906 after he noticed remarkable changes in the brain tissue of a woman who had died after suffering from a mysterious mental disease.

Minibrains in Minibrains Alzheimer’s

Her symptoms included language problems, memory loss, and erratic behavior. Today, persons showing these symptoms are said to be suffering from Alzheimer’s. Around 5.4 million people in the US suffer from Alzheimer’s. The majority of the affected individuals are aged 65 and older. Persons suffering from the disease have abnormally tangled bundles of fibers known as neurofibrillary and clumps called amyloid plaques in the brain. No cure for Alzheimer’s has been found yet. The drugs that had looked promising when tested on animals failed when used on humans at the great expense of money and time. While there are certain similarities, the human brains are not the same as mice or other animals on which the drugs are tested. In a bid to accelerate the development of a cure for Alzheimer’s and other mental diseases such as Parkinson’s, scientists at the John Hopkins University have developed ‘minibrains’ that imitate the functions of a human brain.

How Minibrains Can Help in Development of Alzheimer’s Disease

The Human Brain
The Human Brain

The minibrains developed by the researchers at John Hopkins consist of clusters of human neurons and other cells that mimic the structure and function of the brain. They are the tiny models of the real human brain that can help scientists in the ongoing research to provide a cure for the brain disorders including Alzheimer’s.

The miniature model of the brain that is about the size of an insect’s eye and could be produced on a large scale. This will make it easier for the researchers to test the effectiveness and safety of the new drugs in a laboratory setting.  The minibrains show evidence of electrical activity that the researchers can measure during clinical trials of the drugs for the Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers could obtain much better information about the effectiveness of the drugs through the minibrains as compared to testing them on rodents. These brains could one day replace the thousands of animals particularly mice that are used in the neurology laboratories.

The team that had developed the minibrains had said that brain cells of people with a particular genetic trait could also be taken to provide a model for examining different neurological diseases.

One thing remains is whether the public will accept the idea of growing ‘human brains’ inside the lab. But the researchers that had developed the minibrains said that there would be less fear of the use of these brains if people understood that the lab-grown miniature brains can never match the functions or structure of the real human brain.

The human brains have billions of cells while the minibrains stop growing after only about 20,000 cells. And these miniature clusters of cells have no way of becoming conscious or making decisions, according to the researchers that developed the minibrains; however, miniaturization is becoming a key factor in the advancement of the sciences and we hope that this will be a breakthrough in medical science that will take the cure for Alzheimer’s to the next level.

Myths about Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s is one of the irreversible diseases which deteriorates the memory and mental condition of the person, subjecting them to phases of memory loss, followed by complete loss and damage of cognitive skills over time. The disease is part of the more commonly known mental state called dementia, which is the generic term for those who lose their cognitive abilities. Alzheimer’s is a chronic, neurodegenerative disease and is one of the most dreaded, due to the fact that the person gradually loses their mental capacity until they cannot think of take care of themselves.

Apart from the commonly known facts, there are some myths surrounding the Alzheimer’s disease, which needs to be addressed, in order to obtain a better understanding if you are with a person suffering from it.

Alzheimer’s disease only happens to people of old age

This is one of the widely known misconceptions about Alzheimer’s disease. If someone is experiencing symptoms, then they shouldn’t put off the doctor’s appointment until their 50th birthday. This disease doesn’t wait to strike people in their senior years only. Although most of the patients of Alzheimer’s disease are above the age of 60 years on average, it doesn’t restrict the disease to old age and can be prevalent among young people as well. Due to not being considered under threat of the disease in midlife, many people aren’t tested for it, thus delaying the diagnosis. This results in major progression of the illness in old age. The early onset is usually genetic, so if someone has a family history of it, it’s better to get a thorough check up on a more frequent basis.

Alzheimer’s disease isn’t deadly

Often people do not take the disease too seriously, which results in failing to acknowledge the fact that it is one of the top 10 diseases leading to death in the U.S. Alzheimer’s patients go far beyond regular forgetfulness which is a part of the aging process, often forgetting to eat and drink even, if living alone. This could easily lead to the danger of starvation. The disease can also lead to breathing problems, pneumonia and trouble swallowing and chewing food which may be fatal.

There isn’t a current cure of Alzheimer’s disease

Although many stories have been published and there have been many claims by nutritionists about the cure of Alzheimer’s disease; there isn’t anything that could stop it from progressing.  A healthy lifestyle, medicines and proper diet may improve the general health of an Alzheimer’s patient, subsequently slowing down the progress of the disease, but the illness does grow with time, leaving no other option but to accept it.

Getting mindfully engaged in mental exercises, like puzzles may lower the risk or slow the growth of Alzheimer’s disease, but no person should accept the claims made about medicines, diet regimen or exercise plans to cure it completely.

See latest developments in the cure for Alzheimer’s disease.