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How Long Should You Hold on with Alzheimer's?

By Jan Bolder - November 13, 2013

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When a loved one starts to develop Alzheimer's, it can be one of the most devastating, tumultuous times in everyone affected's lives. This disease, one that will affect 13.5 million Ameriacns and 1.2 million Canadians by mid-century, is a savage one, requiring a lot of time, care and attention. Sometimes, it's not always practical or realistic to transition into a full-time caregiver, but the boundary between family member and provider can often be blurry and tricky to ascertain. Here are a few general guidelines that may help to make the choice.

1. Safety

At first glance, safety doesn't seem to be much of an issue with Alzheimer's, as the biggest issue might be falls or injuries- occurrences that tend to generally happen with all seniors. But add in memory loss and the issue becomes compounded: a loved one can forget to turn the stove off, blow out candles, or wander away from home. Each incident by itself can be managed; each incident added together becomes a greater task to deal with, and only you can decide how watchful of safety issues you can be. At the end of the day, no matter how difficult it may be to place your loved one in a facility, it's always better to keep them safe.

2. Medical Care

As Alzheimer's progresses, it slowly robs the person of their health and wellbeing, foisting a new slate of obstacles for family members to deal with. At its mildest and earliest, the medical issues may be slight and sporadic, but can eventually develop into debilitating conditions that require full-time, advanced care. Again, you're the best judge of how much medical care you can take on. Some families have the time and resources to dedicate to being full-time caregivers, while for others, it may simply be out of their scope.

3. Nutrition and Daily Activities

Eating well is important no matter what your age or cognitive level, but it's especially so when a disease like Alzheimer's is present. During "good days" when your loved one seems fine, he or she can probably tend to their own meals and activities but as the disease progresses, they become increasingly reliant on you. Healthy, well-rounded eating takes time to prepare, but can help keep Alzheimer's in abeyance, as can daily activities. But the more your family member can keep active and independent, the longer they can hopefully fend off the effects of Alzheimer's. The benefit of doing so at home is your family member feels comfortable and safe in the house they're used to, while assisted living facilities, nursing homes and Alzheimer Special Care Units can offer specialized care and attention as they're well-practiced in the needs of patients. 

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