Noticing a decline in cognitive ability, either in yourself or someone you love, is certainly a cause for concern. We know a lot about Alzheimer’s disease and a host of other dementias these days, but we still don’t know enough about any of them to have a cure, and this can be downright disheartening to the one receiving this kind of diagnosis for themselves, a spouse, or a relative. My Bible study this morning was a reminder that in whatever we are facing, we should never give in to fear, but push ahead in faith that God is in control, and He will direct our paths. Maybe this seems easier said than done, but if you have any experience with faith walking, you will know what I’m talking about here. So, let’s get into this week’s topic through a lens of faith instead of fear.
Over the past months have you noticed a decline in your mom’s memory? Does your dad seem forgetful or even foggy at times? Do you feel like you can never remember where you left your car keys, or do you walk into a room in your house only to realize you have no idea why you came in or what it was you meant to get? If these kinds of observations keep you awake at night, the good news is that it might be Alzheimer’s Disease or some other type of dementia…OR it might not.
Sometimes organic or biological problems mimic the symptoms of dementia when, in fact, the “cure” might be found in a few good nights’ sleep or a prescription for an antibiotic!
Many types of stress can cause forgetfulness. This stress can be from external or internal causes. A recent move, the death of a loved one, a marriage or divorce, a hospitalization or extended illness can all cause short-term memory loss. Polypharmacy, or taking lots of different medications that interact with one another, can also cause dementia-like symptoms. This can easily occur when an older person is hospitalized and treated by a hospitalist physician for the acute condition that caused the hospitalization while also continuing with other medications prescribed by their regular doctor. Even something as simple as a bladder infection left undetected can rapidly scramble one’s thought processes and leave loved ones anticipating an unwanted diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease in the days ahead.
But there’s only one way to find out what’s really going on…you have to step toward mobilizing faith and away from paralyzing fear.
Schedule an appointment to see your doctor as soon as you have concerns about memory issues or personality changes. He or she can perform both memory tests and blood work to assess the concerning conditions and give a probable diagnosis. If necessary, you or your loved one can be referred to an appropriate specialist to get further information and come up with a good treatment plan going forward.
If that diagnosis is, in fact, Alzheimer’s or another dementia, there are promising new treatment options that can slow memory loss and improve quality of life, as well as resources to help you and your mom or dad with next steps and setting expectations, but these may come with unpleasant side effects and their cost may also be prohibitive. Still, there’s no benefit to postponing this inquiry. Being afraid to get a diagnosis only gives the offending illness or disease longer to do damage. Left untreated, a bladder infection can spread to other vital organs and the blood stream, but in most cases the simple administration of an antibiotic for a few days will clear up both the infection and the brain fog caused by it. Left untreated, Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias will advance however they can, robbing their victims of memories, relationships, and even the ability to care for themselves. With the right drug therapies, the disease’s progression can be slowed, quality of life improved, and hope regained for a cure in the nearer future.
Chris and I hope you’ll join us this week here at Heart of the Caregiver and share your heart about how caring for someone with memory loss impacts your faith walk today and in the days ahead.