Alzheimer’s Disease: Definition and Resources for Families
Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is a form of dementia, a catchall phrase for difficulties in thinking, memory, reasoning, learning, decision-making and speed in processing information. Researchers estimate that 60 to 80 percent of people with dementia have Alzheimer’s Disease and that 66 percent of the people with the disease are women.
Usually, family and friends are the first to notice signs of Alzheimer’s. A common early sign is the inability to retain information just learned. As the disease progresses, people may be confused about events, time and place. They may also not trust people and walk, talk or swallow with difficulty. However, to make a definitive diagnosis, a doctor may do a brain scan, blood and urine tests; test a person’s memory and learning ability; and question family and friends.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, other warning signs of the disease are:
- Trouble making conversation
- Misplacing items and being unable to mentally backtrack to try to find out where they are
- Inability to manage personal finances
- Memory loss
- Inability to manage daily life
- Mood changes
- Alienation from friends and family
- Poor decision-making
- Problems forming words in speech and writing
- Trouble with visual and spatial images
Paying for Alzheimer’s Care
People with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers are typically forced to rely on many different types of medical and care oriented services. Since most health insurance plans (for those under 65) lack coverage for some of these needed services, you may need to look elsewhere for help to pay these costs. There are a variety of resources for people and families with low or moderate incomes.
Medicaid, federal and state assistance for healthcare for low-income people, and Medicare may pay for a limited number of days of adults day care. Sometimes help is available to pay for home healthcare. However, families should screen home healthcare agencies carefully to find an efficient one.
PACE (Program for All-Inclusive Care of the Elderly) is a combination of Medicare and Medicaid that allows people with Alzheimer’s to stay at home while receiving services. Social Security Disability Income may be an option for people under 65 with Alzheimer’s who cannot work.
SHIP (State Health Assistance Insurance Program) is a federal program that helps states assist Medicare recipients and their families. Families should also consult local social service agencies and their elected representatives at the county and state level. Veterans should contact the Department of Veterans Affairs to see what benefits they quality for.
For people with higher incomes or for those who think Alzheimer’s disease may be in their future or the future of someone they love, they should consider long-term care insurance, which pays most of the costs associated with diseases that require daily care over a long period of time.
Services People with Alzheimer’s and Their Families May Need
Caregivers find adult daycare quite helpful, as it gives them time to rest or run errands. Some facilities have extended hours for this service, which permits caregivers to go to work or school. Some nursing homes and facilities offer extended care that permits caregivers to have a break, from a few days to a few weeks. Consultations with experts in senior living in the public or private sector help families find out where and how to get services. The assistance of social workers and mental health professionals helps ease the psychological difficulties caregivers and people with Alzheimer’s may experience.
Families may inquire about the delivery of hot meals to the home. However, when previously independent people can no longer care for themselves, residential care is available at some facilities. When those with Alzheimer’s disease are near death, most families welcome hospice care at home or in a facility. Home health aides help with bathing, dressing and preparing meals at home. Families have more peace of mind when they get advice about safety modifications they can make in the home.
Getting legal documents in order is important too. People should have two durable powers of attorney, one governing health and the other finances. They should have a will, as well as a living will, which tells others how they want to be cared for at the end of life. Additionally, they should have DNR (do not resuscitate) orders, which tell loved ones and medical personnel whether they want to be revived if their heart beat becomes erratic or their heart stops.