Under the Hood

Alzheimer’s Disease Facts Your Doctor Does Not Tell You

Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disorder known for slowly damaging a person’s memory and ability to handle simple tasks. As we get older, the fear that we may eventually develop the disease also emerges.

Losing the ability to remember things is a major concern for almost every one reaching mid-life. Who would want to forget the first time you went outside the country? Or your first child’s birth? Your wedding day? And other happy moments with your family and friends?

As people get older and due to some factors in the environment, the risk of having Alzheimer’s disease would become higher. It could eventually steal most of your happy memories and adventures. 

But what if you already have it? Or you have been showing initial signs of its development? Is it really frightening to live with Alzheimer’s? 

“Newly diagnosed adults and their family members are deeply concerned about how to navigate this uncertain future,” Laura Rice-Oeschger, who runs a caregiver wellness program for the University of Michigan’s Alzheimer’s Disease Center, told Women’s Health

“They’re overwhelmed with ideas and fears, which often stem from a previous personal experience with Alzheimer’s or what they learn from the media,” she added. 

Despite the negative effects of the condition, there are a number of ways for patients and their loved ones to maintain a meaningful life. Check out some interesting facts about Alzheimer’s disease that many doctors do not tell their patients about. 

1. Spend More Time Having Fun

Following Alzheimer’s diagnosis, people immidiately lose hope and look at life differently. However, David Merrill, a neurologist and geriatric psychiatrist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, said the condition will take 15 to 20 years before fully affecting the brain. 

It means Alzheimer’s disease symptoms do not appear overnight, giving you more years to be active and to enjoy life. 

“There is no reason to be hopeless about an Alzheimer’s diagnosis,” Merrill said. “It’s never too late to start changing your lifestyle to slow down the progress of the disease.”

2. Many Alzheimer's Patients Remain Independent

People with the disease can still do things for themselves. Simply focus on your strengths and the activities that you enjoy doing. Maintain a balance between activities that may no longer be convenient and those that provide benefits. 

3. Change Your Diet and Lifestyle

As Alzheimer’s develops gradually, you can do something to delay the process. Simple changes to the food you eat and your daily activities can help. Try aerobic exercise, get enough sleep and follow a good diet to keep the brain healthy. 

4. Socializing Could be a Form of Treatment

Regular social interaction can help preserve mental health. Socialization plays a key role after the diagnosis. Having lunch with friends, engaging in online chats and joining local clubs could help keep people connected and the brain active. 

“When it comes to the brain, I tell patients to ‘use it or lose it,’” Henry Paulson, a neurologist and director of the University of Michigan’s Alzheimer’s Disease Center, said. “People are social animals and socialization drives us. Do a lot of whatever mentally stimulates you.”

5. Join Support Programs

Talking to fellow patients could help navigate the challenges of life with Alzheimer’s disease. It also provides benefits to the caregiver. Rice-Oeschger said those who take care of the patients should also join a wellness program to maintain well-being. 

6. Caregiving Helps

Caregiving helps patients significantly. But the work itself also helps those providing it. 

A 2017 national poll by the University of Michigan showed that 78 percent of caregivers surveyed said their efforts are stressful, but the majority also found the responsibility as a rewarding experience.

7. Interactions May Become Different So be Ready

The changes in the personality and memory could make things difficult both for the patient and the caregiver. One caregiver, named Kelly, from Cypress, Texas, shared her experience in taking care of her mother with mid- to late-stage Alzheimer’s. 

“Your sweet, innocent [mother] who does not swear will curse like a sailor and call you names,” she said. “Try to remember it is not her doing these things… it’s this disease.” 

Accept that the condition is causing changes that your loved one never dreamed of having. Adjust and try to find things that would make them feel comfortable. 

Old woman Carmen Blandin Tarleton, of Manchester, was a victim of domestic violence who received her face transplant in 2013. Pixabay

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