Published on: September 25, 2012
by Mary Ball, Shelita Weinfield & Lori Delagrammatikas for UT San Diego:
Taking steps early in the disease can ease a difficult transition.
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease include more than memory loss. People with Alzheimer’s have trouble communicating, learning, thinking and reasoning — problems severe enough to have an impact on their work, social activities and family life. Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive illness. While the disease affects each person differently, symptoms will gradually worsen and there will be good and bad days.
If you or your loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, it helps to plan ahead. Making simple adjustments, taking safety precautions, putting plans for the future in place and having the support of others can make things easier.
To help someone better cope with memory loss:
•Create a book that has important phone numbers and addresses, including the patient’s, a map to their home, and space to keep thoughts they want to remember. They should keep the book with them.
•Label photos of people they see regularly with names and their relationship to them.
•Use a pillbox to organize their medications.
•Label cupboards and drawers with words or pictures that show the contents.
•Have a friend or loved one call to remind them about meal times, appointments and medication.
•Ask the Alzheimer’s Association or a support group where to get help with housekeeping, meals and transportation.
•To help them keep track of money, have checks directly deposited and ask the bank if they have services to help seniors with dementia.
•Arrange for home-delivered meals if available.
•Have someone regularly sort their closet and dresser drawers to make it easier for them to get dressed.
•Leave a set of house keys with a neighbor they trust.
•Have them stop driving when it’s no longer safe. Memory loss and an inability to make decisions and react quickly can put them and others at risk.
•Beware of electrical appliances. Leave written reminders to “turn off the stove” or “unplug the iron.” Make sure the appliances they use frequently will automatically shut off
•Install smoke detectors and have someone change the batteries annually.
At some point, living alone will become too difficult or dangerous. Make plans now for where they will live as the disease progresses and where they will get the help they need.
•Talk to the patient about where they want to live, and with whom, when the time comes that they need more care. They may want a helpful roommate, to live with relatives or move to a residential care setting. Other options include adult day programs, in-home care and hospice services.
•Explore options for long-term care insurance.
•Legally assign someone they trust to make health care decisions for them when they can no longer make those decision. Put their wishes for health care and living arrangements in writing.
•See a lawyer about having their money matters taken care of by someone they trust.
It’s best to make decisions about the future as early in the course of the disease as possible. Planning ahead ensures their future will be in good hands.
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