With age comes memory loss, we have all experienced forgetfulness but often older people are hit hard and fast with memory loss. In severe cases the development of Alzheimers takes place. Alzheimers is an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills. 747,000 Canadians endure this degenerative disease, as do 44 million others across the world. This is a global health crisis with no cure.
How do we ease the symptoms and make day to day life easier on these people?
If someone you love is suffering from memory loss, dementia, or full blown Alzheimer’s numerous things can ease the stress, but first and foremost a daily routine is essential. Maintaining a structured routine helps the person know what is going on, and what is going to happen next. A simple white board with the schedule written, in an easy to find place should suffice. Encourage the person to take a look at it when they are feeling uncertain.
Patience is key, try to only ask or mention one thing at a time, being careful not to overwhelm the struggling person. Keep them involved and doing simple tasks, like assisting in setting the table or putting away groceries.
Exercise is stimulating and beneficial, finding a safe place for them to walk around is a great idea, but be careful and ensure they have comfortable walking shoes. Regular exercise has been proven to slow further deterioration of people who’ve already started to develop cognitive problems.
Forgetting to eat and stay hydrated is a common problem among people with memory loss. The risk of dehydration is high because a common side effect of advanced dementia is the inability to recognize thirst. Being dehydrated can make the already strenuous brain even more foggy, accentuating the symptoms.
Too much stimulation can be troubling for these people, so limit the noise from TV and radios. If the disease has progressed, it may be beneficial to avoid mirrors as the person may mistake their reflection with another person.
It’s always hard to see your loved ones struggling with any health issues to begin with, but watching them slowly fade away is heartbreaking.
What about any preventative measures we can take? The Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation has found various studies that support regular exercise and a healthy diet to combat these cognitive problems. Manage your stress, get quality sleep and try to balance some social engagement. All these simple lifestyle changes can lower your risk of cognitive problems later in life!
If you have any questions or concerns about you or a loved one, call the Alzheimers and Dementia Helpline: 1-800-936-6033 (Monday to Friday, 9 am – 8 pm)