at risk for alzheimersFew things are more terrifying than the idea of your own mind betraying you, but that’s essentially what happens to those who develop dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. It would be less terrifying if we had an effective treatment to cure (or even prevent) Alzheimer’s disease, but at the moment, no such treatment exists.

Even so, many people still want to know if they might be at risk for developing Alzheimer’s. As the saying goes, knowledge is power, and if you know what to expect, there are a few things you can do to prepare yourself, even if it’s just getting your affairs in order and making sure you have a good power of attorney you know will represent your interests if the worst were to happen. So, let’s take a look at some of the most common risk factors for developing Alzheimer’s disease:

Age

Although early onset Alzheimer’s provides some exceptions to the rule, Alzheimer’s and dementia primarily affect people over the age of 65, and their risk of developing Alzheimer’s doubles every five years after they turn 65. By the time people reach their 80s, they have a one in six chance of developing Alzheimer’s.

Gender

Although no one knows why as of yet, we do know that women over the age of 65 are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s as men. Part of it might have to do with the loss of estrogen women experience after going through menopause.

Family History/Genetics

Although we know that someone is more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease if someone in their family has or had Alzheimer’s, only early onset Alzheimer’s has been definitively identified as something that gets passed down from one generation to the next.

There are more than 20 genes that have been identified as playing a role in increasing or decreasing someone’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s later in life and researchers are still working out which genes play what role in the development or prevention of Alzheimer’s. Nothing is inevitable – not even Alzheimer’s disease – so if you know you have some of the genes that put you at a higher risk for developing Alzheimer’s, you’ll want to take extra care to maintain as healthy a lifestyle as possible to try to reduce your chances of developing Alzheimer’s later in life.

Lifestyle

People who maintain a healthy lifestyle, especially in their middle ages and older, are somewhat less likely to develop Alzheimer’s compared to those who don’t maintain a healthy lifestyle. This means exercising regularly, eating a balanced diet, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding tobacco, and moderating their alcohol consumption. It also means staying mentally and socially active.

Health Conditions

If you have certain medical conditions, you might be at a higher risk for developing Alzheimer’s. The riskiest conditions include diabetes, stroke and heart disease, high blood pressure, as well as high cholesterol and obesity, especially later in life.

If you have any other questions about dementia and/or Alzheimer’s, whether it’s regarding your own risk factors, or a loved one who is already exhibiting symptoms of mental decay, we’re here to help.

stages of alzheimer'sAlzheimer’s is a progressive disease that starts with few, if any, symptoms and works its way towards severe impairment of cognitive, and even physical abilities before the patient dies of the disease. Although it’s important to remember that Alzheimer’s affects everyone differently, it can be helpful to understand the five main stages of Alzheimer’s disease if you or someone you love has been diagnosed, so you can have an idea of what to expect.

Preclinical Alzheimer’s Disease

The first stage of Alzheimer’s is called “preclinical” because the disease starts to affect the brain long before any symptoms appear. In some cases, it can go on for years, or even decades, before the patient starts to show symptoms.

This stage of the disease is characterized by deposits in the brain of amyloid-beta, a protein that has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Thanks to new imaging technology, we can now see deposits of amyloid-beta building up in the brain before symptoms appear or parts of the brain start to decay. Because patients in this stage of the disease do not have symptoms, this phase can be identified only in research trials, but it might become key to diagnosing the disease in patients before they show symptoms.

Genetic testing can also be done to give patients an estimate of their likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) Due to Alzheimer’s Disease

The second stage of Alzheimer’s disease also tends to go undiagnosed because the symptoms are usually mild enough to either go unnoticed or they get attributed to something else. At this point, the symptoms are not severe enough to affect the patient’s work or interpersonal relationships, which makes it less likely that someone will report them to a doctor.

People with MCI tend to have trouble remembering appointments or pieces of conversation. Their judgment might also be impaired, making it harder for them to judge how long it will take to complete a task, or to remember the necessary steps to complete a task and the order in which those steps need to be taken.

Even when MCI becomes noticeable, patients with Alzheimer’s disease often go undiagnosed during this stage because MCI can be caused by other things. If the symptoms do warrant medical attention, a diagnosis is dependent on a doctor’s judgment based on their professional review. But, if necessary, the same imaging technology used to diagnose Alzheimer’s in the preclinical stage can be used to identify it in the MCI stage.

Mild Dementia Due to Alzheimer’s Disease

The symptoms in this stage tend to be severe enough to alert friends and family to the fact that something is wrong, so this is the stage when most patients are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. People with mild dementia might experience one or more of the symptoms below:

  • Memory loss of recent events – this is when people can’t remember something that just happened, or they ask the same question over and over.
  • Impaired judgment, impaired problem-solving abilities, and difficulty performing complex tasks – this is when certain tasks that used to be routine, such as balancing a checkbook or planning an event, suddenly become overwhelming.
  • Personality changes – People who were formerly outgoing might suddenly become withdrawn or subdued. Mild-mannered people might show uncharacteristic flares of anger or irritability. Less motivation to complete tasks is also typical in this stage.
  • Organizing and expressing thoughts becomes more difficult – People often have trouble finding the right words to express their ideas, or even to identify or describe objects.
  • Getting lost or misplacing things – People might start having more trouble finding their way around, even in familiar surroundings. It’s also common for them to lose or misplace items, even valuable ones.

Moderate Dementia Due to Alzheimer’s Disease

People in this stage of the disease usually begin to need help with daily tasks and self-care as they become more confused and forgetful.

This is also when significant changes in personality and behavior tend to appear, and it’s common for people in this stage of the disease to become suspicious. They might become convinced that family members or caregivers are stealing from them, or that a spouse is having an affair.

Hallucinations have also been known to happen in this stage of the disease.

Severe Dementia Due to Alzheimer’s Disease

In the last stage of the disease, the brain has degenerated to the point of impairing physical abilities, including the ability to communicate coherently. People in this stage of the disease need help with self-care, including eating, dressing, and bathing. They may even need help walking, sitting up, and/or holding their head up. In the final stages of the disease, they lose the ability to swallow or control their own bladder or bowel movements.

Here at Stillwater Senior Living, we treat our residents like family. Our apartments include studio, one bedroom, and two bedroom suites, and we are pet friendly. They are designed with security features, maximum accessibility, and include walk-out patois with a full range of amenities for the entire family. We are also excited to open our Memory Care Neighborhood in the Spring of 2020.

CONTACT US today for more information and a tour of our beautiful state-of-the-art community.

caregiver burnoutIf you’re the sole caregiver of a parent or loved one, you’re at risk of burning out. Depending on the level of care your loved one needs and your other responsibilities, it can be difficult to find time to take care of yourself, but trust us when we say that doing so is absolutely necessary for your wellbeing, as well as that of your loved one.

If you’re constantly running around, attending to the needs of your loved one, you might not even notice if you’re burned out, so take a minute and see if any of these sound familiar:

  • You’re Always Tired

It’s one thing to feel tired at the end of a long day, or if you didn’t sleep well the night before, but if you find yourself feeling tired all day, every day, no matter how much sleep you got the night before, you could be suffering from caregiver burnout.

Sleeping more than normal is also a symptom of caregiver burnout, so if you’re sleeping more than usual and still feeling tired all the time, it’s time for a break.

At the same time, sleeping too little could also be a sign of caregiver burnout. If you’re always tired, but unable to sleep, it could be a sign of stress and an indication that you need some time off.

  • You’re Easily Irritated or Angry

If you find yourself snapping at your loved one and/or anyone else around you over the smallest inconveniences, it could be a sign that you’re burned out. Becoming consumed with anger when someone cuts you off in traffic or makes a simple mistake is also an indication that it’s time for a break.

At the extreme end, this can lead to thoughts of harming your loved one and/or yourself, in which case it’s definitely time to take some time for yourself and maybe find a professional you can talk to about your feelings.

  • Your Clothes No Longer Fit

Gaining or losing weight in significant amounts can be an indication that you’re stressed out and overworked. This may or may not go along with changes in eating patterns. Loss of appetite is commonly associated with both stress and depression, both of which are markers of burnout. On the other hand, if you find yourself stress eating, that’s also an indication that things are not going well and you need to take some time off.

  • Your Health is Declining

If you find yourself getting sick more often, developing headaches and/or other aches, pains, and/or indigestion, then it’s time to take a break before you become the one who needs a caregiver. New or worsening health problems are an indication that your body is unable to carry the load of stress and work you’re carrying and it’s time to get some help. Whether that means calling in friends or family members to take some of the load, or considering assisted living for your loved one, it’s important to get some kind of help before your health deteriorates irreparably.

Here at Stillwater Senior Living, we treat our residents like family. Our apartments include studio, one bedroom, and two bedroom suites, and we are pet friendly. They are designed with security features, maximum accessibility, and include walk-out patois with a full range of amenities for the entire family. We are also excited to open our Memory Care Neighborhood in the Spring of 2020.

CONTACT US today for more information and a tour of our beautiful state-of-the-art community.