The 2018 Report of the Alzheimer’s Association provides the following stats, among others:
- 5.7 million Americans have Alzheimer’s as of 2018
- 14 million are projected to have it by 2020
- $277 billion is the current cost of Alzheimer’s and other dementias
- 16.1 million Americans provide care free of charge
As the sixth leading cause of death in the US, Alzheimer’s disease is defined as a type of dementia affecting the patient’s memory, thought process, and behavior. Although it is especially prevalent in seniors —1 in 3 will die with this or another form of dementia— early-onset Alzheimer’s also targets people under the age of 65. Early diagnosis, as always, is a phenomenal tool that reaps significant suffering and cost saving, both for the individual and the health care system as a whole.
Strategies, Activities & Tips for Caregivers
Now, what help is there out there for caregivers at home? There is no known cure for Alzheimer’s, but there are a number of winning strategies to help both your loved ones and yourselves. Heed these:
- Maintain a Tight Daily Routine. Patients love routines.
- Overstimulation is bad. Keep it simple.
- Reassure them. It makes them feel safe.
- No yelling or arguing. Manage your frustration.
- Notebooks and/or smartphones allow you and the patient to keep track of important information.
- Use Sticky Notes as reminders.
- Label cabinets, cupboards, closets, drawers, and appliances for easy guidance with words or pictures. Label names on photos of everyday or important people.
- Get family and friends involved. They can help in reminding patients of important things to do: taking medication, keeping appointments, etc.
There are a number of ‘memory walks’ scheduled to get people together and continue to raise awareness and money. Find a walk near you and get involved. You can also sign up for the National Memory Screening Program, a free program countrywide that offers confidential memory screenings.
Finally, there is a wide variety of memory aids that can be put to good use, many of which tie in with the strategies described above.
Traditional Memory Aids
- Calendar, such as a wall chart that you can easily spot. Check things on and off.
- Journal or diary
- Daily newspaper
- Shopping list
- Permanent reminders: signs, a medication reminder box, a calendar clock, color-coding keys or anything that is used daily, etc.
Electronic Memory Aids
- Alarm clock
- Cellular phones. They are a great help, as they combine information of date and time, reminders of appointments, alarms, messaging, voice-recorders, cameras, and a wide array of apps.
- Computers and tablets
- GPS locators and devices
- Teach new techniques, such as mnemonics, to remember a name, any PIN number, or an item of the daily routine
- Jog memory. Come up with exercises to excite curiosity: locating something lost; numbering the ingredients of a dish; image tests; crossword puzzles, etc.
- Rhyming or alliteration is extremely helpful to refresh names, phone numbers, the works.