Tips for Addressing Early Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease in an Elder Loved One


Are you concerned that your elder loved one may have Alzheimer’s disease? Did you know that the month of June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month? During this annual campaign it is a tremendous opportunity for elders, their families, and their caregivers to partner with health care and legal communities across the country. This partnership allows awareness about a disease that is affecting millions of people to be brought to the front of people’s minds and to make available much-needed resources for those in need.

What is Alzheimer’s disease? Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that breaks down memory, thinking and behavior. It is estimated that more than 5.8 million Americans are living with the disease, and the effects can also be devastating to those who care for them. Alzheimer’s also involves declining mental capabilities and includes life-threatening end-stages. In fact, Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S. and currently there is no known cure.

However, early detection offers the best chance for effective treatment and sustained quality of life. We would like to share several tips for approaching an elder loved one when you are concerned he or she may be starting to exhibit signs of Alzheimer’s disease.

1.Record the signs. Do you notice adverse mental changes, such as memory loss, confusion and diminished problem-solving abilities? Has anyone else noticed? Begin to catalog these unsettling incidents for a period of time and review them with a family member, friend or especially the elder’s doctor. Now, be aware that aging does involve a certain amount of forgetfulness and confusion, especially when combined with some prescription medications and health challenges. Therefore, by creating a record, you may help determine whether Alzheimer’s is taking root or if your concerns are part of the normal aging process.

2. Tackle the issue right now. The first step in dealing with Alzheimer’s disease is acknowledging that there may be a potential problem. However, confronting an elder loved one about his or her mental health is a sensitive task and must be handled with great care. Take time to talk with other family members before approaching the elder adult and decide whether it would be best to have a one-on-one meeting or a family conversation. You must address the elder loved one’s concerns with honesty and compassion and make sure to respect his or her dignity.

3. It is important to get professional guidance. Did you know that, according to the nonprofit Alzheimer’s Association, a skilled physician can diagnose Alzheimer’s disease with more than 90 percent accuracy? Your first step should be contacting your elder’s primary care doctor or an internist. Any follow-up appointments should be conducted by a physician with whom the elder adult feels comfortable.

We know that a positive diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is life-changing, but try not to panic. There are many Alzheimer’s support organizations, memory loss assistance programs, and caring professionals who are available to help. They can help with health challenges; a qualified estate planning attorney can help with legal considerations, such as creating a durable power of attorney for a loved one to make decisions on the elder adult’s behalf if the need arises. Care and support are what Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month is all about.

Our estate planning law firm takes a very different approach from what you might have come to expect. Our goal is to create lifelong relationships with each of our clients, to guide and manage your legacy for the rest of your life. Please contact our offices in Stuart and in Palm City to learn more.

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