After being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, a person usually lives about eight to ten years. Some people live 20 years after being diagnosed. This form of dementia begins with memory loss. It is a slow disease, and currently there is no cure.
Treatment Begins with a Plan
It's important to make plans as soon as possible after being diagnosed. Five Wishes is a living will that helps you or your loved one make decisions about the future. The booklet asks you to think about different aspects around:
- Who do I want to make decisions for me?
- What kind of treatment do I want?
- How comfortable do I want to be?
- How do I want people to treat me?
- What do I want my loved ones to know?
Once notarized, Five Wishes is a legal document. It can be ordered online at www.agingwithdignity.org in 20 languages.
Drug therapy can help at different stages of Alzheimer's disease:
- Certain drugs may help slow the symptoms for a short period of time.
- Drugs are available to control problems such as sleeplessness, agitation, wandering, anxiety and depression.
Drug therapy is most effective in the moderate stage. After starting a drug therapy, check with your doctor regularly to see if it's working. Not everyone benefits from drug therapy.
Alzheimer's disease may bring medical complications, including:
- Problems with walking and falling
- More likely to get infections
- Trouble swallowing
- Pressure sores
Problems like these can sometimes be treated:
- Shots to prevent disease
- Eating food that is good for you
- Drinking plenty of water
- Taking care of teeth, hearing and vision
- Taking care of other conditions such as arthritis
- Treating illness as soon as you're aware of it
For almost half of patients, treating other medical conditions may lead to an improvement in their ability to think and process information.
Alzheimer's Association. 2008 Alzheimer's Disease facts and figures. Accessed August 12, 2008. Available at www.alz.org/national/documents/report_alzfactsfigures2008.pdf.
Dykstra N, Karsten K, Kwantes L, VanGrouw S. Caring for your loved one at the end of life: Information for the Caregiver. Calvin College Social Work Program Curriculum Module, Spring 2003. Accessed August 14, 2008. Available at www.caregiverresource.net/pdfs/Caring_For_Your_Loved_One_At_The_End_of_Life.pdf.
National Institute on Aging. Alzheimer's disease fact sheet. Accessed August 11, 2008. Available at www.nia.nih.gov/Alzheimers/Publications/adfact.htm.