Today, more than 5.7 million people in America have Alzheimer’s disease. As this number continues to grow and both prevention and cure continues to elude us, awareness is critical.
November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, a designation aimed at raising public awareness of the disease and its growing impact on the U.S. population.
During November organizations, caregivers, and researchers take the opportunity to educate as many people as possible about this aggressive disease and ask them to join the fight for improved care options and advancements towards a cure.
At The Kensington, our promise is to love and care for your family as we do our own. This promise is especially important to those families looking for exceptional memory care, something The Kensington is known for in the Falls Church and Washington DC area.
What Is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month?
November was first designated Alzheimer’s Awareness Month in 1983 by President Ronald Reagan. It was a call to action, to get people involved in helping to raise awareness about the condition, as well as the levels of care required for a person living with Alzheimer’s.
At the time, there were about two million people in America who had Alzheimer’s disease. In 2018, that number has risen to more than 5.7 million and is expected to climb to nearly 14 million by 2050.
The incidence of Alzheimer’s, left unchecked, is expected to increase as the US population continues to age and life expectancy continues to grow, ironically due to other medical breakthroughs.
Awareness is always the first step in bringing the research focus and resources needed to tackle the toughest diseases that attack our loved ones. To this end, we encourage you to join us in helping raise awareness this November during Alzheimer’s Awareness Month.
Seek out more information, raise awareness at work or in your community, volunteer with or make a donation to an Alzheimer’s charity, or just share your Alzheimer’s story.
You can also participate in organized events, including National Memory Screening or by joining and contributing to The Kensington team in our Walk to End Alzheimer’s.
What Is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia involving cognitive and memory impairment. Though research is ongoing, scientists still do not fully understand the condition or its causes.
Alzheimer’s is believed to be the source of about 70% of dementia cases. The most common cause is thought to be genetics, though there is some evidence that head injuries, depression, and hypertension could also play a role.
As a neurodegenerative disease, the onset of Alzheimer’s often seems gradual, but symptoms intensify over time. The progression of the disease can vary significantly from one person to the next. Current diagnosis for Alzheimer’s is based on cognitive testing. Blood tests and medical imaging are also performed to rule out other diagnoses. Currently, an examination of brain tissue is the only way to diagnose the condition definitively.
Early detection of Alzheimer’s disease is complicated by the fact that symptoms are often confused for normal aging. Forgetfulness often increases as we age leading to misplacing items, forgetting names, or remembering partial information. Older adults may even experience what they feel is some degree of short-term memory loss. For the most part, these are all normal parts of aging, and not necessarily indicative of Alzheimer’s disease. However, forgetting entire experiences, not remembering things later, and losing the ability to communicate or care for oneself could be signs of Alzheimer’s disease onset.
It’s always important to consult with a medical professional if you or your loved one suspect any cognitive or memory impairment.
There are no known treatments or therapies that can halt the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. However, it’s possible to manage and to some extent minimize symptoms for those with the disease through compassionate care and alternative therapies — like art therapy, music therapy, pets, even horticulture therapy and more! Exercise, proper nutrition, and thoughtful mental stimulation are also vital.
In most cases, the onset of Alzheimer’s takes place after age 65. About 6% of the population over 65 will be affected by it.
How to Recognize the Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease?
November’s Alzheimer’s Awareness Month is an excellent opportunity to raise awareness around critical signs of Alzheimer’s disease. While these signs of the disease are often similar to the normal aging process, the severity of symptoms is what’s most important for early detection.
One of the more common early symptoms is short-term memory loss, such as difficulty remembering even very recent events. Other notable signs are passivity or the loss of motivation. Typical examples might be that your loved one stops taking care of themselves and withdraws from family and social events.
As the disease advances, Alzheimer’s patients can begin to develop problems with speech, mood swings, behavioral issues, and disorientation. Symptoms, like these, are usually when long-term care options begin to be considered. Further progression of the disease can lead to behavior becoming unpredictable and challenging for a family to manage. As the condition moves into its final stages, basic body functions and abilities can further decrease.
How to Care for a Person Who Has Alzheimer’s Disease?
One of the biggest challenges for families affected by Alzheimer’s disease is how to best care for their loved one, but fortunately, this isn’t a challenge you need to face alone.
Since the disease is progressive, it often moves slowly in the earliest stages. In these early stages, families often assume primary care responsibility for their loved ones. However, as the condition increases in severity, unskilled family members can experience caregiver burnout, as home care becomes increasingly burdensome.
In the later stages of Alzheimer’s disease, long-term care or residential care communities become an attractive option for many families seeking to provide a safe and compassionate memory care environment. In places like The Kensington, not only will your loved one receive professional round-the-clock care and assistance with daily living activities like eating, bathing, and dressing, they’ll also benefit from the on-staff dementia experts who are trained to manage the most challenging behaviors and medical needs.
What Activities Can Help People With Alzheimer’s?
This Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, our team at The Kensington hopes to spread the word about ways to enrich the lives of patients with the condition. While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, those with the disease can benefit greatly from compassionate care and engaging activities and socialization. At The Kensington, we are passionate about helping residents, and families find ways to enjoy the beauty of special times, even if only moments.
Memory Care Programs
Our memory care program offers residents specialized programs to enhance cognition, such as art therapy, music therapy, reminiscence therapy, and more.
Exceptional Dining and Nutrition
Proper nutrition also plays an important role in the experience of Alzheimer’s patients, which is why our dining services team strives for excellence in cuisine, presentation, service, and atmosphere.
Social and Engaging Communities
Socialization and engaging activities, such as those offered by our life enrichment program, are other activities that have been shown to help reduce stress, preserve wellness, keep the mind sharp, and nourish the spirit for seniors with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
We know dealing with a new Alzheimer’s diagnosis or caring for a loved one with the disease can be extremely challenging, and we’re here to help. If you have questions about the care our team at The Kensington can provide, please don’t wait to get in touch with us.
Our team would love to get to know you and your loved one. We understand each situation is different, and we have a breadth of resources and in-house expertise we would love to share with you along the journey of deciding if an assisted living and memory care community is the right fit for your family at this stage.