What no one tells you about Alzheimer’s disease
You probably know someone who has Alzheimer’s disease. The most common dementia, Alzheimer’s affects up to 70% of all people with dementia. This means family and friends may have to assume a new role – the role of a caregiver for an ageing relative. (Although early-onset Alzheimer’s can occur in people younger than age 65, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.)
There are rewards and challenges when you become a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s disease, including a risk of caregiver burnout. We asked experts what caregivers and other people should know about this memory-robbing condition.
Your loved one may do wildly inappropriate things
“Sometimes people say and do things that are out of character,” says Ruth Drew, director of information and support services at the Alzheimer’s Association. She recalls the time a woman – who had always been very proper – began taking off her clothes from the waist down. One of the residential care facilitators suspected that there was something going on and had her tested for a urinary tract infection – which turned out to be the problem. “You need to play detective and discover what is triggering the behaviour,” says Drew. “The circle of life reverses itself and sometimes the child becomes the parent,” notes Gail Pearson, a memory care unit manager at a facility for dementia sufferers.
Loss of inhibitions
“It is not uncommon that my husband opens his zipper. He doesn’t do it to be sexual. He thinks it’s funny,” reports a family caregiver. “He also tries to kiss strangers because he truly believes everyone likes him.”