The Impact of Dementias and Alzheimer’s disease
The Impact of Dementia’s and Alzheimer’s disease
M.A. is a 61 year old African American woman who was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. She is currently in the moderate stage of the illness meaning that she can function independently sometimes on some activities but she experiences instances of dementia more often than in the early stages. She lives alone in her family home and has two sons who visit at least three days a week. The following are M.A.’s responses to the interview I had with her on her Alzheimer’s and details of her care.
Have you been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s? If yes, how long ago?
I was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at 60 years but I started having the mild symptoms in my 50’s so I guess I have had it for a while. I have always had weird instances where I forget even the most basic information, but I did not think it was serious until it got worse and I could sometimes even forget my way to the store. Last year, I went to the hospital; they did some tests and said I have Alzheimer’s.
What symptoms have you experienced as a result of the illness?
The most occurring symptom for me is forgetfulness. I forget important things about my past. I could not even remember my son’s birthday. I once forgot my way to the store after leaving home. I also experience a lot of mood changes lately. I am always feeling negatively about many things.
Have you had any treatments targeting this illness specifically?
I have been taking Aricept and Axura since I was diagnosed.
Have you experienced other illnesses relating to this illness?
I have not experienced any other serious illness that can be connected to my Alzheimer’s.
How do you feel dementia or Alzheimer’s disease has impacted the quality of your life?
I no longer feel in charge of my life. I feel like I could get worse at any time. I have read information on the late stages of Alzheimer’s and honestly I am scared. I know that it is only going to get worse. I am not ready to lose my independence and I am angry that I have no control over what is happening.
Do you have any support system such as family, friends, or acquaintances that assist in taking care of you?
My husband died 7 years ago so I only have my two sons who are more than willing to help me. However, they are both working so they can support me in many ways but cannot be with me all the time. They stay with their families but the come here a lot of times.
What are your likes, dislikes, and interests?
I like going out to social gatherings with my friends even though that has reduced significantly since I started forgetting things. I dislike sleeping in.
How was your day structured before you were diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease?
I used to go to work. I was a Director of Marketing at my company and I loved my job. I stopped working because of the persistent forgetfulness.
At what time of the day do you function the best?
I am a morning person. I wake up at 6:00 a.m. and do almost all important activities within the morning hours.
What is your daily routine like after diagnosis?
I am always indoors. I wake up; do the simple chores like wash the dishes. The rest of the day is spent resting and watching movies or reading books.
Analysis of M.A.’s Case
From the interview, it is clear that M.A. is aware of her situation. She is still lucid for most of the time. She is also an educated person so she is aware of detailed information on her illness and how it affects her life. She has shown signs of experiencing mental stress as a result of the changes in her life. She has shown sadness because of the onset of the Alzheimer’s and is afraid of the changes that will take place in the future. She is literate and has spent her time researching the illness online, which is contributing to the psychological stress she feels about the changes in her life. Most of the things she talks about are the changes that have taken place in her life since she started experiencing the symptoms. The fact that she no longer comfortably does her activities without fear of forgetting, she no longer works and she cannot hang out with her friends makes her sad.
M.A. does not have adequate support for her illness. She has been widowed for some years now and her only support system is her two sons. While she believes that they are there for her, the reality of things shows that she does not have adequate support. Her sons visit occasionally but they have their own houses where they live with their families. She is usually alone most of the time and only interacts with them on the phone. This is a sign of proper family support and she might need more adjustments in her life in preparation for when the illness gets worse.
How this will affect her Care
From the interview with M.A. it is clear that she is mentally stressed about her illness. There is a high chance that she might develop mental health issues if they do not already exist. Depression is a common comorbidity in Alzheimer’s disease. More than 40% of people with Alzheimer’s experience depression (Chi et al., 2015). M.A. has shown signs that she is stressed about her illness and this will affect the course of care. Her care plan will need to include treatments and management for depression. One way that she can be helped is by joining a support group for Alzheimer’s patients. Support groups help people to learn more about the illness and get to hear about people’s experiences to get rid of the feeling alone (Walton et al., 2015). Scheduling a predictable daily routine might also help to make life more interesting to reduce the feelings of boredom that contribute to the depression (Czaja, 2016; Prince et al., 2015). She may also need to be given antidepressants if the problem gets worse in the future.
The interaction with M.A. has also shown that she has inadequate support from her family. With an illness like Alzheimer’s she is too at risk of harm to be living alone. The symptoms of Alzheimer’s are progressive (Alzheimer’s Association, 2014). She is still in her early stages but she will inevitably get worse in the future. It will get to a point where her care is more demanding and she needs more attention to do her daily activities and to be protected from different kinds of risks. Her care plan needs to include people who will be helping her with her daily activities. She has the option of staying at home and hiring a nurse to live in and take care of her. She can also be taken to a care facility where she will have access to professional care. This is a decision that M.A. and her family will have to make depending on what they feel is best for her.
Alzheimer’s Association. (2014). 2014 Alzheimer’s disease facts and figures. Alzheimer’s & Dementia, 10(2), e47-e92.
Chi, S., Wang, C., Jiang, T., Zhu, X. C., Yu, J. T., & Tan, L. (2015). The prevalence of depression in Alzheimer’s disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Current Alzheimer Research, 12(2), 189-198.
Czaja, S. J. (2016). Long-term care services and support systems for older adults: The role of technology. American Psychologist, 71(4), 294.
Prince, M., Comas-Herrera, A., Knapp, M., Guerchet, M., & Karagiannidou, M. (2016). World Alzheimer report 2016: improving healthcare for people living with dementia: coverage, quality and costs now and in the future.
Walton, J., Ryan, N., Crutch, S., Rohrer, J. D., & Fox, N. (2015). The importance of dementia support groups. BMJ: British Medical Journal (Online), 351.