Did you know that more than six million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease? Not only that, but more people die from Alzheimer’s than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia with symptoms that interfere with daily tasks over time. Have you noticed memory loss or behavioral changes in yourself or a loved one? Are you or a loved one having difficulty completing tasks that are familiar, such as making a grocery list or paying bills? It’s important to determine the cause of the change. It may be related to another disease, for example, diabetes, or a vitamin deficiency or medication side effects.

Often times, the individual with symptoms does not realize or understand what is happening. A loved one could recognize symptoms but not mention this to others for fear their loved one will be placed in a facility. This is not the only option.  It is important to note that individuals suffering from this disease can unintentionally bring harm to themselves or others. They could forget to turn off an oven or wander out with no recollection of where they are.

Learn how to recognize the signs. Visit the Alzheimer’s Association website www.alz.org to view the “10 Early Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s” .

Diagnosing Alzheimer’s requires a physical exam, neurological exam, mental cognitive tests, and lab or imaging testing which help determine mental status. If you have concerns about yourself or a loved one, talk to your doctor. Your doctor will determine next steps which may include referral to a specialist, such as a neurologist or geriatrician.

Although the symptoms can be treated, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s. Individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s will need support from their care team made up of family, friends, medical professionals and community resources.

Are You a Family Caregiver?

Whether you’re a caregiver providing support to a loved one with Alzheimer’s or other dementia, or a caregiver who is a grandparent raising grandchildren – caregiving can be incredibly challenging. Support and resources are available to you!

Old Colony Elder Services (OCES) is a nonprofit agency serving older adults, individuals with disabilities and caregivers throughout Plymouth County and surrounding towns. OCES’ Family Caregiver Support Program (FCSP) provides free one-on-one support designed to assist not only those who are providing care to older adults, but also grandparents raising grandchildren. OCES recognizes that each caregiver’s situation is unique and complex. There are many resources available as the role of a family caregiver can change over time, particularly as Alzheimer’s disease progresses.

FCSP provides a personalized plan for the caregiver which outlines OCES’ available resources as well as community resources that are applicable to each caregiving situation. Caregiver support groups, educational workshops and programs all share techniques to help family caregivers of loved ones with Alzheimer’s and grandparents raising grandchildren with stress reduction, time management, goal setting, problem-solving, relaxation and more.

OCES offers an Alzheimer’s and Dementia Caregiver Support Group for caregivers. This support group offers practical advice, teaches coping skills, and provides strategies to help caregivers deal with common memory challenges. The group meets virtually on the second and fourth Friday of each month.

OCES’ FCSP also provides a number of specific resources for grandparents raising grandchildren. In addition to one-on-one support for grandparents, FCSP staff will create a personalized plan outlining available resources which may include help with respite, summer camperships, technology and more.

For more information about OCES’ Family Caregiver Support Program or the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Caregiver Support Group, or if you are in need of other services, contact OCES’ Information and Referral Department at 508-584-1561.