In the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s, you may still be living alone, and you may not want diat to change, even after your diagnosis. Although you will eventually need to make other living arrangements, you can try to take steps to ensure that you live alone for as long as possible. The Alzheimer’s Association offers the following suggestions:
It’s hard to imagine anything more frustrating than not being able to think and perform at the level you’re accustomed to operating at. Compounding those feelings of frustration is the inability to come and go as you please and an increasing reliance on others, even for simple tasks like making a purchase, writing a check, or preparing a simple meal.
It’s not uncommon for most people to feel inexplicably sad at varying times in their lives. But depression is a serious mental illness that can impair the way you function. As much as 9.5 percent of the population or nearly 19 million people suffer from a depressive illness every year. Depression is considerably more common among die elderly and affects approximately 20 percent of people over the age of 55. Left untreated, the condition can have devastating consequences and destroy a person’s career, family life, and other relationships, and cause enormous pain and suffering.
Certain vitamins, minerals, and herbal supplements have been associated with brain health. Though research on some of the products is mixed, there is some evidence to suggest that these supplements might help boost memory and reduce the risk for dementia.
Exercise. Eat your vegetables. Get your rest. We’ve heard these health mantras all our lives, from parents, teachers, doctors, and even the media. There’s a reason why these messages persist— they speak the truth and are critical to helping us sustain healthy bodies and minds.
GETTING YOUR EXERCISE
For years, you’ve heard about the virtues of regular exercise—how it maintains weight, staves off cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other illnesses, and helps maintain muscle strength and aerobic capacity. Research suggests that exercise also has protective benefits for the brain and can help stave off problems such as dementia.
Enjoying a good night’s sleep may be easier said than done for the person who has early Alzheimer’s. Disruptions in sleep are a result of changes in the sleep-wake cycle, which is regulated by the brain. They may also be caused by medications, other medical conditions such as depression, or a bad sleep environment.
If you have high cholesterol, you have the choice of several different medications to lower your cholesterol. If you have diabetes, you can choose from a modest list of drugs to tame your blood glucose control. But if you have Alzheimer’s disease, your treatment options are limited to only five medications at this time.
In people who have Alzheimer’s, sleep disturbances are common. You may have trouble getting to sleep or wake up frequently in the middle of the night. You may awaken earlier than you should. As the disease progresses, the lack of sleep can cause uncontrollable resdessness, and some people may begin to wander. Sleep problems may be exacerbated if you also suffer from depression, restless leg syndrome (an uncontrollable urge to move your legs move at night), or sleep apnea (an abnormal breathing pattern that causes you to stop breathing many times a night). As a result, you may wind up sleeping more than usual or not getting enough sleep.
Few tasks in life are as difficult as that of becoming a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s. Early on, the job may be mentally exhausting as you struggle to come to terms with the disease, learn to accept your loved one’s cognitive decline, and start to juggle the day-to-day logistics of how you will care for this person. As the disease progresses, you may take on more financial and legal responsibilities as well. Gradually, caregiving becomes more physically taxing as your loved one’s own physical abilities diminish and his cognitive skills erode even further.