If you're caring for elderly loved ones who seem to be headed toward senility, you're not alone. There are many types of dementia -- Alzheimer's is just one of them. Statistically, families ignore the early warning signs for years because they incorrectly believe that intermittently odd behaviors are just a normal part of aging .
Author and former television executive Jacqueline Marcell gave up her career, went through 40 caregivers and cried a river before she succeeded in getting a handle on the situation. She tells how in her book, Elder Rage, or Take My Father ... Please! How to Survive Caring for Aging Parents, (Impressive Press, 2001).
Education Is Key
"Everyone should know the warning signs of dementia and the importance of seeking help sooner than later," Marcell emphasizes. The 10 signs are as follows:
- recent memory loss that affects job skills
- difficulty performing familiar tasks
- problems with language
- disorientation of time and place
- poor or decreased judgment
- problems with abstract thinking
- misplacing things
- changes in mood or behavior
- changes in personality
- loss of initiative
Marcell says, "By the age of 65, one out of every 10 persons has some form of dementia, and by the age of 85, one out of every two. Since the fastest growing segment of our population is the 85-plus group, there are countless Americans now struggling to care for dementia-suffering family and friends.
Where She Found HelpMarcell credits the Alzheimer's Association for referring her to geriatric dementia specialists who uncovered her father's early stage Alzheimer's disease after his primary care doctors missed it. They prescribed medication to improve his cognitive function, then treated the accompanying aggression and often-present depression. With medication (Aricept, Exelon, Reminyl, and Ebixa), dementia symptoms might be masked and slowed down by two to four years, keeping a loved one more lucid for a longer period of time.After also balancing her father's diet with optimal nutrition, Marcell began what she calls, "Elder Behavior Modification 101," which consisted of rewards and consequences, a strategy that succeeded because his short-term memory was still quite good. This process succeeded in turning around his negative behavior the majority of the time.The final key was getting herself into a support group, and getting both parents out of bed and enrolled in daily activities at an Adult Day Health Care facility. Marcell claims the combination of therapies completely turned her parents lives around at ages 80 and 85. Her mission is to "spread the word about the importance of early diagnosis to the 77 million baby boomers who are often in denial about eldercare until they are in a crisis.""Seeking help early can save families a lot of heartache and money, and save our society the burden of caring for so many elders who decline sooner than need be. It's really very simple: When your loved one does something that strikes you as illogical or irrational -- it is! You don't need to be a Ph.D. to know something is wrong. But you do need an M.D. who can diagnose and treat it properly."
Source: Health & Wellness