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Caring for Family with Alzheimer’s Disease

A true labor of love

It has been called the long goodbye. When a loved one begins to show signs of Alzheimer’s disease, it can be heartbreaking. Many families go into denial. But early intervention with new treatments can offer delays in the progression of Alzheimer’s, giving families the gift of more time together.

Alzheimer’s disease, the most common cause of dementia, usually affects people aged 65 and older. More than 6 million Americans are living with this disease, and that number is forecast to more than double by 2050, thanks to the aging baby boomer generation. Their care is a responsibility we all carry- from individuals and caregivers to the government and the nation’s healthcare system.

According to “2023 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures,” a special report from the Alzheimer’s Association, better care requires conversations about memory as soon as there are reasons for concern. Knowledgeable, accessible care teams led by physician specialists can diagnose the disease, monitor it as it progresses, and treat it.

Studies have consistently shown that there are ways to improve the lives of those affected by Alzheimer’s and other dementias and their caregivers. They include using available treatment options and managing any coexisting conditions.

You can improve the quality of life for a loved one with Alzheimer’s by becoming educated about the disease, training to manage your loved one’s day-to-day life, and ensuring their physicians and other healthcare providers work together. Encourage your loved one to continue participating in activities that bring them joy or a sense of purpose. Help them to maintain their relationships and friendships. Connecting with others living with dementia can also be helpful.

Looking forward

The good news is that new treatment options are on the horizon.

Current treatments include seven drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treating Alzheimer’s. there are no cures, and not all treatments are appropriate for everyone living with Alzheimer’s, but five of them aim to improve symptoms, and the other two work to change the underlying biology of the disease.

The recent discovery that Alzheimer’s disease begins 20 or more years before symptoms appear suggests there is a large window during which the disease’s progression may be interrupted. Scientific advances, including identifying biomarkers for Alzheimer’s, allow for earlier detection. This helps identify those who may qualify for clinical trials of experimental treatments that may prevent or delay symptoms.

To access more information, contact the Alzheimer’s Association of Arkansas.

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