Dementia and Alzheimer’s: Early detection and a well-structured care plan can significantly improve the quality of life for people diagnosed with these diseases.
If you or a loved one is concerned about memory loss or cognitive decline, it is critical to consult a healthcare professional.
Here are some key questions to ask your doctor when seeking a diagnosis and tips for creating a care plan:
Questions to Ask Your Doctor:
- What are the symptoms of dementia? Start by talking about the specific symptoms or behavioral changes that have generated concern.
- Is it dementia or something else? Understand that dementia is a broad term. Ask your doctor to identify whether the symptoms are indicative of dementia and, if so, what type.
- What are the stages of dementia? Dementia progresses through stages. Learn about the stages, expected changes and the timeline for each stage.
- Can dementia be reversed or treated? Determine whether dementia is reversible or treatable. Certain conditions may resemble dementia, but are temporary or treatable.
- What type of dementia is it? Alzheimer’s is only one form of dementia. Ask your doctor to specify the type, as different types may require different approaches to care.
- What treatments are available? Explore available medications and therapies that may help control symptoms or slow the progression of dementia.
- What are the risks and benefits of medications? If medications are prescribed, understand the possible side effects and expected benefits.
- How will dementia progress? Discuss the likely trajectory of the disease, keeping in mind that it may vary from person to person.
- What support services are available? Learn about support services, such as memory clinics, caregiver support groups and community resources.
Dementia and Alzheimer’s: Creating a Care Plan
Once you have answers to these questions, it’s time to establish a care plan:
- Assemble a care team: identify family and friends who can provide support and care. Consider professional caregivers if needed.
- Legal and financial issues: Consult an attorney to address legal and financial issues, such as powers of attorney and advance directives.
- Home safety: Make necessary home modifications to ensure safety. Eliminate hazards, install alarms and create a structured routine.
- Medical Appointments: Establish a schedule for regular medical appointments and checkups. Keep a medical journal to track changes.
- Medication management: If medications are prescribed, establish a system for medication management, such as pill organizers or reminders.
- Diet and exercise: Work with a health professional to create a balanced diet and exercise plan that supports cognitive health.
- Engagement and stimulation: Encourage activities that stimulate the mind, such as puzzles, memory games and hobbies.
- Social interaction: maintain social connections, as social engagement can improve mood and cognitive function.
- Respite care: Arrange for respite care to give caregivers a break from their responsibilities.
- Advance planning: discuss end-of-life wishes and arrange for palliative care if needed.
Alzheimer’s Association of Massachusetts Resources and Support
The Alzheimer’s Association is a valuable resource for individuals and families affected by Alzheimer’s disease in Massachusetts. Here are some of the resources and services they provide in the state:
- Information and support: The Alzheimer’s Association offers a wealth of information about Alzheimer’s disease, related dementias and caregiving. They provide resources for understanding the condition, its symptoms and available treatments.
- 24/7 Helpline: Operates a 24/7 helpline that provides information, support and crisis assistance. They can be reached at 1-800-272-3900.
- Local Chapters: Massachusetts has several local chapters of the Alzheimer’s Association, including the Massachusetts/New Hampshire Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. These chapters offer a range of services and support to local communities.
- Support Groups: The Association offers both in-person and virtual support groups for people living with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers. These groups provide a safe space to share experiences and receive emotional support.
- Advocacy: The Alzheimer’s Association is actively involved in advocating for policies and funding to support research, care and the rights of people affected by Alzheimer’s disease.
- Safety Services: The association provides services and resources to enhance the safety and well-being of those living with Alzheimer’s, including the MedicAlert® + Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return® program.
- Research Initiatives: The Alzheimer’s Association is at the forefront of Alzheimer’s research. They provide information on clinical trials and research opportunities.
To access these resources and learn more about Alzheimer’s Association services in Massachusetts, you can visit the table for specific information and support.
The information contained on the My Health Fair website should not be construed as professional advice or medical recommendations.
Readers should direct any questions regarding their personal health care to licensed physicians or other appropriate health care professionals.