When a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or another dementia, a person’s world is turned upside down. They are suddenly launched into a full-time job caring for a dementia patient, and it can be difficult to juggle both. Caregiver support groups are excellent tools for both experienced and new caregivers.
It’s important to begin with a little education. Not all types of dementia are genetic, and having a parent who has dementia doesn’t necessarily mean you will get dementia, or that you will pass it on to your children. Having a first-degree relative with a memory disorder does put you at an increased risk however, so let’s spend a little time talking about prevention and risk management.
1. Manage Other Health Conditions
In many cases, it’s not dementia itself that is the inherited problem. It’s the other conditions related to dementia, such as hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity. Managing these conditions is a great first step to reducing your own risk. Preventing them is better.
You have heard it before, and it’s still true. No way around this! Diet and exercise are critical. The research shows that even 20 minutes of exercise per day has a positive effect on brain health. This is just the minimum amount to have an effect- if you are at higher risk, it’s time to make exercise a priority.
The research on caregivers caring for loved ones with memory disorders is startling.
Caregivers often experience serious deterioration in their own health due to stress-related disorders. They may put off their own doctor’s appointments, delay check-ups, have less time for exercise, socialization and enjoyment, and often experience a lack of sleep and an increase in depression and anxiety. According to a study conducted by Stanford, between 40-60% of caregivers die before the person they are caring for.
Learning stress management skills, and utilizing adult day health care (including Saturdays) is an effective way for you to do the things you need to do, and be around to be a better caregiver by taking care of yourself.
4. Early Detection & Intervention
If you are noticing any cognitive changes, take immediate steps for diagnosis and treatment. Early treatment makes a big difference! While there isn’t a cure yet, there are treatments that can slow the progression of a memory disorder well before it becomes dementia. If a diagnosis is suspected or confirmed, ask to be referred to a neurologist who specializes in memory disorders.
5. Get Informed
Invest in your health and wellness by taking advantage of resources like the Mind Booster Series. This four-week series covers brain health, neurology, diet, exercise, cognitive exercises, mental health, stress management, and legal considerations. This series is for anyone concerned about brain health and aging well, and is geared toward living healthy, productive lives.
Go to www.AFSCenter.org for more information.