My friend's heart is breaking. She came to me with tears welling up in her eyes. "When Dave asked what I would like to do last Saturday, I told him I wanted to have a special picnic outing. We planned out all the details, choosing his favorite foods, and I started getting things ready. Five minutes later, he came to me and asked 'What would you like to do today?' He had absolutely no memory of the conversation we just had."
Nancy doesn't understand how this can be happening. She realizes that memory loss which disrupts daily life is not a normal part of aging, and she is scared of losing her husband to Alzheimer's. Dave is only in his early 60's, and they haven't had enough time together to enjoy the many life experiences they have planned. She certainly doesn't feel ready to be a caregiver yet!
Fortunately for Nancy and Dave, there is a lot that can be done by paying attention now. As the Alzheimer's Association at http://www.alz.org points out, early detection is crucial. By becoming aware of the ten warning signs, which include disruptive memory changes, challenges in planning or solving problems, difficulty completing familiar tasks and confusion with time and space, we can increase the odds that our loved ones will get the care they need.
Of course Nancy wishes none of this was happening, but she is going to ensure that Dave gets a full medical evaluation to see what they are actually dealing with. She knows that by taking action early, they will:
- Gain the most benefit from available treatments – Together, they can explore promising treatments that may provide some relief of symptoms. This can help Dave prolong his level of independence.
- Have more time to plan for the future – If Dave is diagnosed with Alzheimer's he will be able to take part in decisions about his care, living arrangements, financial and legal matters. Helping to create a care team and support network will empower Dave while taking pressure off of Nancy to be the sole caregiver.
- Maximize help for caregiver and loved one – By becoming aware of potential care and support services, Nancy's transition into becoming a caregiver will be easier. Both she and Dave will be able to live the best possible life by utilizing the many resources available to help.