Summer solstice is a day many people celebrate. It’s the longest day from sunrise-to-sunset and the official start of summer. However, the day has a different meaning for those battling Alzheimer’s disease. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the duration of the summer solstice symbolizes the challenging journey of those living with the disease and their caregivers.
What Is Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. Symptoms typically develop slowly and worsen over time. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60-80 percent of dementia cases. Research continues, but there is no current cure for Alzheimer’s disease. However, there are treatments for symptoms.
The Alzheimer’s Association reports the disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. It’s estimated more than five million Americans have the disease, and every 66 seconds, someone else is diagnosed with it.
10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, these are the ten warning signs for the disease:
1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life
2. Challenges in planning or solving problems
3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure
4. Confusion with time or place
5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
6. New problems speaking or writing words
7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
8. Decreased or poor judgment
9. Withdrawal from work or social activities
10. Changes in mood and personality
If you are experiencing serious and recent memory problems, it’s best to talk to your provider and get a comprehensive medical evaluation. The evaluation could include a cognitive test, a neurological exam and/or brain imaging.
What to Do After an Alzheimer’s Diagnosis
It can be overwhelming to receive an Alzheimer’s diagnosis in your family. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed, it’s important to remember you’re not alone. Neurologist Howard Liu, MD, UnityPoint Health, says the best place to start is by making an appointment with your family doctor who can give you advice, guidance and resources.
How to Talk to Someone with Alzheimer’s
Watching the disease progress in a family member or friend is difficult. However, it’s important to know how to communicate with Alzheimer’s patients.
1. Do you correct an Alzheimer’s patient or live in their reality?
For example, your mother hasn’t driven for the last 15 years, but she tells you she can’t remember where she parked her car. What do you do?
“Don’t correct them,” Dr. Liu says. “Correcting them embarrasses them and it angers them. Go along with their story, they will be much happier.”
2. What should you do if an Alzheimer’s patient can’t remember you or another member of your family?
“Introduce yourself. They, then, may remember you. However, there is a chance they won’t remember you, too,” Dr. Liu says.
3. Is it ok to talk about someone who has Alzheimer’s while they are in the room with you and others?
“This is never appropriate and is highly discouraged,” Dr. Liu says.
While your visits might seem to frustrate the patient and even yourself, Dr. Liu encourages you to continue visiting your loved ones. He says there are no certain types of discussions to avoid with any Alzheimer’s patients.