Robert T. DeMarco at I am an Alzheimer’s Caregiver says he missed the early signs of Alzheimer’s in his mother. He says that if he had known sooner, “This would have allowed me to get her in an exercise program, get her proper nutrition, and insured that she was taking her medication as prescribed. I learned in the last four years how important these factors are in the quality of her life.”
What should you do if you knew that Alzheimer’s disease was developing in you or a loved one?
- Make up your mind while you still have one. (I know, that’s an irreverent thing to say, but it would have made my grandmother laugh. And laughter is good medicine.) Decide how you want to live your life, and express your wishes in writing and verbally to your loved ones. Do it while you can think clearly. You can always change your mind later. It’s harder to make decisions when you’re feeling confused, and by that time, your decisions can be challenged legally. After all, a person with Alzheimer’s disease eventually gets the point where they can’t honestly say, “being of sound mind and body.” The unsound body part, we all get to.
- Lose weight and get exercise. Brain traumas such as strokes are the most preventable factors in Alzheimer’s disease. Some people may have plaques and tangles in their brain, but unless they have a stroke, their brain function may be unaffected. Obesity is one of the leading causes of strokes. Lack of exercise is another.
- Control your blood pressure and limit cholesterol. High blood pressure and high cholesterol are linked to stroke, which again, is linked to Alzheimer’s disease. If you gummed up the plumbing in your house and the water pressure was too high, you’d have problems in your house. If you do that to your arteries, you will have problems in your brain.
- Make financial plans and arrange your affairs while it’s easier to do. Getting old is expensive and usually complicated. It’s harder to prepare for retirement if you wait until you’re 64, especially if something happens to your pension fund or the your government retirement system turns from a parachute to a trampoline. Instead, start saving as early as you can, so the interest can multiply. Decide where you want to live if you can’t care for yourself, and how you will pay for it.
Keep your mind active all your life and never stop learning. Retirement can be deadly. Reducing your stress after 65 is a great idea. Changing how you work is wise. But putting your mind into idle gear simply because you’ve reached retirement age is a bad idea. Experts aren’t sure if exercising your mind slows the onset of dementia by creating new nerve connections in your brain, or if it just keeps you sharp enough to pass an Alzheimer’s screening test and fool the doctor. But it can’t hurt.
What are your ideas? How would you prepare for Alzheimer’s disease if the diagnosis came sooner?