Q&A with Ric Cavanagh: Coping with Alzheimer's Disease

Aug 10, 2010

Ric Cavanagh - Certified Alzheimer’s Homecare Trainer

Each week we will be featuring a question and answer with our Director of Staff Development, Ric Cavanagh, M.S.W., about Alzheimer’s disease and what to do when your elderly parent is diagnosed.  Certified to teach the Home Health Alzheimer’s Disease or Related Disorders Training Module created by the Florida Department of Elder Affairs, Ric brings great breadth and depth of experience to Easy Living, with 35 years in elder services, medical social work and management. Ric’s past experience in developing training programs and managing health care professionals serves him well as he provides training and coaching for Easy Living staff, as well as in developing systems to support them. Keep an eye out every Tuesday for Ric’s Alzheimer’s Q&A.

Have a question for Ric? Visit our “Contact Us” page to submit your question and Ric’s response will be posted on the EasyLiving blog.

Q: I suspect that Mom has Alzheimer’s. What are some typical early signs of the disease?

A: The first indications of Alzheimer’s disease tend to be forgetfulness and changes in personality.  It’s natural to become somewhat forgetful as we age.  Aging brains are like computers whose memory capacity is nearly full, and the processing time gets slower.  It can take a little while longer for an older brain to retrieve information in response to a question, or it might require reminding to do something that in earlier days was automatic, like brushing your teeth in the morning.   Most of us just shrug off as a “senior moment” occasional forgetfulness when we recall what it is we’re supposed to do or find what we’re looking for.

People with early stage Alzheimer’s disease, on the other hand, are increasingly less aware that they’re forgetting things. They may deny misplacing things, and often start blaming others for hiding or misplacing items. They forget addresses and phone numbers that they’ve used hundreds of times.

This can lead to significant changes in behavior. If Mom was always good natured and outgoing, but lately she’s been lashing out in anger for no apparent reason or becoming more reclusive, these are warning signs.  At least subconsciously, she senses that something strange is happening to her, but she’s struggling to understand what’s going on.  She may even become depressed.  In short, she just isn’t the same person she used to be.

Topics: Home Care, Senior Health, Alzheimer's/Dementia

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