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Living with Alzheimer’s Disease [Infographic]

People diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease often struggle with how to deal with the news of their diagnosis, and where to go from there. It can be hard to learn to live with the news, but there are ways to increase the quality of life of people living with Alzheimer’s disease. Here are 7 ways to keep a high quality of life and help with cognition problems that Alzheimer’s patients may experience.

Stay Active and Eat Healthy

Research has found that cardiovascular disease greatly increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease later in life. Staying heart healthy can help people who have been diagnosed at least increase the quality of their life. There is research that shows that there is a direct correlation between heart health and brain health, known as the ‘head heart connection.’ Researchers recommend adopting a diet that’s low in saturated fat coupled with regular exercise in order to maintain a healthy brain.

Stay Social

An Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis can oftentimes cause depression, feelings of anxiety, high levels of stress that can cause outbursts of anger or fear, and eventually social withdrawal. People who are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s might feel out of place in their regular social settings, since they can oftentimes become confused. Studies show, however, that maintaining a social life can help with the mood of Alzheimer’s patients and improve their overall quality of life.

Challenge Oneself intellectually

Studies find that crossword puzzles, Sudoku, reading, writing, and other intellectual hobbies help with dementia symptoms. People who challenge themselves with new tasks, information, and activities have higher cognitive abilities for longer than those who don’t. Studies recommend taking classes or pursing higher education to keep one’s brain sharp.

Keep up with Hobbies

Hobbies and creative activities help to keep our minds sharp as well. Scientists who scanned the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s found that just listening to music helped with their memory. Musical memory and emotion occupy similar spaces in the brain, so listening to music can help patients with their emotions as well. Patients who listened to music were able to identify emotional memories better than patients who didn’t. When the brain deteriorates, musical appreciation and ability remains for longer than other cognitive abilities, so scientists can reach a person with advanced forms of Alzheimer’s with songs they loved before. Enroll in clinical trials

Take care of one’s emotional needs

It’s commonly known now that the life and capability changes that come with an Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis can significantly affect the mood and emotional life of those affected by it. After a diagnosis, patients can feel hopelessness, depression, anxiety, and discomfort. As the effects on cognitive functions worsen with time, patients can feel confusion and fear as they forget things or lose understanding of their surroundings. Late stage Alzheimer’s disease patients can also experience shifts in their personality. All of this can be scary and it’s understandable to experience social withdrawal, but talking to friends, family, loved ones and doctors can help patients deal with the frightening new landscape of their brain functionality. Music therapy, support groups, and spending time outdoors are good avenues to explore to help support someone dealing with Alzheimer’s disease.

Full-time care & Hygiene

Loss of cognitive functions eventually causes a drop in the physical and mental ability to keep up one’s hygiene. Patients with Alzheimer’s disease, especially in later stages, need help with remembering to clean themselves and eventually, assistance in the actual tasks of things like cooking, cleaning, bathing, laundry, dental hygiene, and all the other things we can take for granted. Alzheimer’s disease has a high rate of caretakers that work for free, usually assisting a family member. As of 2017, more than fifteen million Americans currently provide unpaid care for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. By considering full-time care in a facility or with a live-in nurse, Alzheimer’s patients can ensure their own comfort and hygiene without putting the burden of their personal care on the shoulders of their family members.

Alzheimer’s disease can be scary, but people in the early and middle stages of the disease can live fulfilling lives in spite of their diagnosis.

Alzheimer's Disease Signs and Symptoms

Alzheimer’s Disease Signs and Symptoms, courtesy of GeriatricNursing.org

Guest post by Meredith Rogers