By Angel MedFlight Contributor
Every 68 seconds, an American develops Alzheimer’s disease. In this year alone, an estimated 5.2 million Americans of all ages have this form of dementia which gradually robs our loved ones of their memory and their dignity. The disease also has a devastating impact on families as often a spouse or child becomes overburdened by the responsibilities of being a caregiver. Angel MedFlight Worldwide Air Ambulance is often called upon to transport Alzheimer’s patients and proudly recognizes November as National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and National Caregiver Month.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Because more than 5 million in this nation are living with the disease, it’s virtually impossible to find someone who hasn’t been impacted. Too many have undergone what is often referred to as “The Long Goodbye.” Anyone who has lost a loved one to Alzheimer’s understands this description because of the patients’ gradual decline as the disease progresses.
The signs start innocently at first. Dad may start writing a lot of notes to himself to remind him of simple tasks. Or he’ll ask you something over and over, not remembering he asked you that same question just a short time ago. Often a spouse steps in and recommends testing. What may be surprising to some is there is no single test that proves a person has Alzheimer’s. The Alzheimer’s Association points out that “a diagnosis is made through a complete assessment that considers all possible causes.” Medical care providers will review the patient’s medical history and there will be a physical exam and diagnostic tests. The assessment will also include a neurological exam, mental status tests and brain imaging.
The patient’s long decline may involve anxiety and drastic mood swings. Loved ones who were mild-mannered before the disease, decline to a stage where they may resist being fed or bathed and then lash out at the caregiver, sometimes violently. What the Alzheimer’s Association wants all caregivers to know is there are ways to get help. The Alzheimer’s Association website is full of information and tips for the caregiver. The site provides a 24/7 helpline where their highly trained staff will provide information on the basics of Alzheimer’s, medications and treatment options plus legal, financial and living-arrangement decisions.
The Alzheimer’s Association can also direct patients and caregivers toward support group, care training resources, free e-learning courses and an e-newsletter. Their website also has an “In My Community” page where users can type in their state or zip code to find out what programs and services are available in your area, such as support groups and educational workshops.
Angel MedFlight’s medical crew members see the devastating effects of this ravaging disease as we often are chosen to transport patients with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia on medical flights. If you are a caregiver, know that you don’t have to go at it alone — there are ways to find support. For more information visit http://www.alz.org.