Last weekend Chris and I participated in our local Alzheimer’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Along with hundreds of other people in our community, we raised money and raised awareness of this devastating disease. Alzheimer’s disease and other related dementias impacts everyone in our community over the course of our lifetimes. Perhaps you are caring for someone with dementia, or have someone in your family who has the disease. Maybe you have noticed someone at church, or in your community, who seems disoriented or confused when they are in a social setting. You might see an older person become agitated or argumentative when they are eating at a restaurant, or shopping in the grocery store.
Many people who have undiagnosed or recently diagnosed Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia still live alone within their communities. When the disease process is in an early stage, symptoms are often dismissed as normal forgetfulness, signs of old age, or they might even be camouflaged through humor or avoidance. As the disease advances, behavior changes cannot be hidden and the truth comes to light, but sometimes awareness comes too late. Early intervention through support services, medication management, and a progressive plan of care can make the difference between a high quality of life and a complete loss of quality of life.
Here are some things to look for if you are concerned about a family member, neighbor, or friend at church. While Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia may not be the cause, these are all indicators that the person you care about needs some help at this point in their life.
- Is the house that was usually kept clean and neat now cluttered and dirty? Does the exterior of the house need maintenance, and do the lawn and shrubbery need upkeep?
- Does the mail or paper sit uncollected in the box for days at a time, or do bills go unpaid until utilities get turned off?
- Has someone stopped attending church or social functions when they once regularly attended these activities and enjoyed them?
- Is your neighbor’s car showing signs of neglect, or damage from minor scrapes and dents? Has your neighbor forgotten to put the car in park and had it roll back into shrubbery or a tree?
- Is someone who used to be well-dressed and put together now wearing dirty clothing and neglecting personal hygiene?
- Does someone forget to take their medications, or exhibit uncertainty about whether or not meds have been taken according to doctor’s instructions?
- Is someone making poor nutritional choices or is there out-of-date food in the pantry or refrigerator? Have you noticed weight gain or loss?
- Has speech becomes repetitive or confused?
- Do you notice a marked decrease in physical activity levels from previous norms? Have you noticed a general decline in physical, mental, or emotional characteristics and ability?
Chris and I hope you will join the conversation, and share your heart!