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Caregiving: Distinguishing Alzheimerís Disease From Dementia

If youíre acting as the caregiver for your aging or disabled parent, then you will probably notice the small changes in your parent before anyone else. Whether it is misplacing keys or forgetting names of people and places, or more noticeable changes in your parentís personality or lifestyle, could you distinguish the signs between Alzheimerís disease and dementia? Oftentimes forgetfulness and eccentric behavior is simply blamed on growing old, but how can you be sure?

Experienced home health care workers and family members of individuals suffering from Alzheimerís can testify to the life-altering effects of the disease. Though the early stages of Alzheimerís could in fact be mistaken for dementia, or even adverse side effects of medications, the incidences of forgetfulness will increase as Alzheimerís begins to take its toll on your loved one. In the early stages, you may also observe significant changes in your parentís personality or increased moodiness.

Alzheimerís is a disease that progresses over time effecting your parentís thought and intellect functions, ranging from forgetting how to perform simple daily tasks to experiencing difficulty in communicating with others. There are also certain noticeable changes in your parentís personal hygiene and living environment that you should be aware of, not only in order to make a correct and early diagnosis, but also to ensure your parentís safety.

In the last stages of Alzheimerís, 24-hour supervision and complete care is usually required. This is especially the case if your parent becomes extremely anxious, has the mobility to wander away, or can no longer physically take care of him or herself. While a patient suffering from Alzheimerís typically lives for six to eight years from the diagnosis to death, advanced or prolong cases may range from less than two, to over 20 years.

Dementia, on the other hand, is not a disease and does not take such a toll on an individual. Dementia is defined as a significant loss of memory capacity. Although providing care to a parent with dementia may prove to be a daunting task, it is usually less involved than caregiving to an Alzheimerís care recipient.

There are several factors that can contribute to dementia. Aging is among the top factors. Dementia may also occur due to the symptoms of certain diseases or other physical illnesses. If your parent is suffering from memory loss, itís important to visit a physician for an accurate diagnosis, especially if the loss of memory is due to another underlying health issue.

Acting as a caregiver to your aging parent can certainly be overwhelming and stressful at times, especially when youíre trying to determine if your parentís memory loss and mood changes are due to age-related dementia or the early signs of Alzheimerís.

There are many helpful resources and agencies that can provide you with information on how to recognize serious illness. Educating yourself as the caregiver not only provides your parent with the best care possible, but also reduces the worry and frustration you may experience as a caregiver.

Submitted by:

Dana Sanders

Dana Sanders is the author of "Becoming Your Parent's Caregiver", a downloadable manual written out of her own experience which provides advice for the children of an aging or disabled parent. Please visit http://www.caregivingaparent.com for information to help you care for your parent.


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