Cheat Sheet

Alzheimer’s & Dementia For Dummies Cheat Sheet

From Alzheimer's and Dementia For Dummies

By Consumer Dummies

Receiving a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or dementia is scary. Your loved one’s life and your relationship with him or her will drastically change. As a caregiver, you may become overwhelmed with what to do and how to give your loved one the best care he or she needs. This Cheat Sheet can give you some helpful tips to identify early symptoms of Alzheimer’s and how you can find the care setting your loved one needs.

How to Find the Right Care Setting for Someone with Dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease

Many people try to keep their loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease at home, whether at the patient’s or the caregiver’s home, as long as possible. However, as the condition worsens, the person’s care may become more than the caregiver can handle. When that happens, you may be forced to move your loved one into a different care setting. Consider the following when choosing where to move your loved one to:

  • Decide on the care requirements: Care requirements should be made by family members/caregivers with input from physicians and specialists involved in the person’s care. The managers and staff of the different care settings are happy to do a needs assessment to make sure they can offer the person appropriate care. Together, this information will inform whether the person with dementia needs to be in a residential home, assisted living facility, or nursing home.

  • Pick the right location: Decide where to look for a suitable facility. For example, it may be best to find a local facility in the community so the person can be close to friends, church members, or key relatives. Or maybe the move needs to be to a different town in order to be near the person with power of attorney.

  • Draw up a shortlist: After the type of care and location have been decided, find facilities that may fill the bill. Try searching online or ask the advice of the person’s physician. Ask friends or colleagues about facilities caring for their loved ones.

  • See them for yourself: You wouldn’t buy a new house or car without viewing it at least once. Clearly, when choosing somewhere for a loved one to live and receive good care, a visit is even more vital. Check out those facilities at the top of your list. Envision your loved one there and see if you feel comfortable with this living setting for him.

    Try to get a feeling of what goes on there, the attitude of staff, and the demeanor of other residents. Checking out the decor and general state of repair can also give you an idea about the staff’s and owner’s attitude about the place. It may even be possible to have a quiet word with families of existing residents if they’re visiting when you’re touring.

  • Compare prices: Once you’re down to the final couple of choices, financial considerations may be the clincher (if they weren’t already considered earlier in the process). It may be that taking finances into account means making a compromise here or there, but sadly that’s the way of the world these days.

  • Arrange a temporary stay: Assisted living facilities and nursing homes may offer a temporary respite stay in a home before someone commits to moving in long term. A short stay allows the family and the person with dementia to get a better idea of whether the person will be happy there and whether it really is as good a fit as it appears. Ask when you visit whether a short stay or respite stay is possible.

10 Early Symptoms of Dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease

The early symptoms of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease are more varied than simply being a bit forgetful. To be diagnosed with dementia or AD, someone must show at least two, if not more, of these ten warning signs, which can themselves sometimes be fairly subtle when they begin.

  • Memory problems that affect daily life. You need to remember the following things to be able to function normally every day. If your loved one can’t remember these facts on a regular basis, this could be an early symptom.

    • Important dates and events

    • The route taken on frequently traveled journeys

    • Where you’ve left important paperwork

    • Names and faces of friends, neighbors, or work colleagues

  • Difficulty with planning and problem solving: People in the early stages of dementia may

    • Become confused using a debit card.

    • Lose track of what their bank statement shows.

    • Forget to pay bills

    • Become confused while trying to put gas in the car.

    • Have trouble following a familiar recipe.

  • Problems finding the right word: In early dementia, many people find that words become elusive, leading to frustration and difficulty communicating effectively. Other signs involving conversation include

    • Substituting a word for something similar, such as a football becoming a kick ball, or a watch becoming a hand clock.

    • Having problems following the thread of other people’s conversations.

  • Confusion about time and place: People with early dementia often lose track of time or become confused about the date. They may also forget where they are or how they got there.

  • Poor judgment: Good judgment declines in early dementia. Normally frugal people may spend money on things they don’t need. Judgment about appropriate dress may also suffer, with people heading off to the beach wearing a coat, hat, and scarf or wearing shorts in a snowstorm.

  • Visuospatial difficulties: The start of dementia can be heralded by increasing clumsiness. As people are robbed of their ability to judge widths and distances, falls and fractures become more common.

  • Misplacing things: The ability to retrace steps and find misplaced items is lost in dementia. Coupled with a tendency to leave things in the wrong place as well (like slippers in the refrigerator), important objects go missing more often.

  • Changes in mood: In the early days of dementia, fluctuating moods can occur, with people often rapidly switching between extremes of sadness, fear, and anger. Low moods and depression are also extremely common in dementia.

  • Loss of initiative: People with dementia may lose interest in taking part in their usual activities. They may need prompting about what they should be doing or simply to join in with what friends or family are doing.

  • Personality change: A number of different changes are possible here, and not all people who develop dementia will change in the same way. In fact, what changes is their normal behavior (like a reserved proper woman starting to swear using words you did not even know she knew). Common changes include becoming

    • Confused

    • Suspicious

    • Withdrawn

    • Angry

    • Sexually or verbally disinhibited

As the disease progresses, these symptoms become more obvious, because they become more permanent. These ten symptoms become part of a person’s usual day-to-day life and behavior. Then there’s little doubt that the person has developed dementia.