Friday, September 21 is World Alzheimer’s Day. It’s a day dedicated to raising awareness about a disease that is currently the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.
The numbers are startling. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, every 65 seconds someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s disease, and nearly one in every three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. And while more than five million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s right now, by 2050, experts expect as many as 16 million Americans will be diagnosed with the disease.
So, what is Alzheimer’s? Alzheimer’s is a brain disease that causes a slow decline in memory, thinking and reasoning skills. One of the most common signs of the disease, particularly in the early stages, is forgetting recently learned information. That can mean not remembering important dates or events, repeatedly asking for the same information, and increasingly needing to rely on memory aids, such as reminder notes or electronic devices.
There are other symptoms, too, including challenges in planning or solving problems; difficulty completing familiar tasks; confusion with time or place; vision problems; new problems with words in speaking or writing; misplacing things; decreased or poor judgement; withdrawal from work or social activities; and changes in mood and personality.
If you are concerned about your own memory loss, or that of a loved one, call your doctor and make an appointment.
In honor or World Alzheimer’s Day as well as Healthy Aging Month, here are some helpful tips from Eddy Alzheimer’s Services, part of St. Peter’s Health Partners Continuing Care Division:
- Let your wishes be known. Complete a health care proxy and power of attorney before a crisis or health emergency occurs. Are you overwhelmed by all of the documentation and information you have to keep track of? Call Eddy Alzheimer’s Services and request a copy of our Everything In One Place booklet. It will help you to keep all of that important information organized!
- See a specialist. There are so many causes for dementia. Your doctor may be able to confirm the presence of dementia symptoms, but you likely need a neurologist to provide a formal diagnosis. Knowing what is causing your dementia symptoms could impact your treatment, prognosis, and plans for the future.
- Record memories. A regret that families sometimes have after a loved one with dementia passes away is that they didn’t record some of the family history and memories they wish they had. Technology has provided us so many ways to record the stories, recipes, and traditions that you want to preserve. Don’t wait until a dementia diagnosis to decide to do this! You might also decide to work on an Ethical Will as a way to pass down what is important to you. Find more information about ethical wills at https://www.everplans.com/articles/ethical-will-worksheet or http://www.life-legacies.com/index.html