Alzheimer’s Patients in Maryland

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, one in nine people over the age of 65 has Alzheimer’s disease. One in nine. That means it’s likely that two children in an average size classroom have a grandparent with Alzheimer’s disease. That means you probably know someone who is living with the disease. It’s a terrifying illness that has many faces, even famous ones such as Rosa Parks, Ronald Reagan, and Norman Rockwell. It spills over into the lives of loved ones, affecting friends and family members deeply, and caring for Alzheimer’s is not for the faint of heart. Currently ranked as the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S., deaths from Alzheimer’s disease have increased 71 percent while deaths from other major causes have decreased over the last decade.

Researchers have estimated that 900,000 people age 65 or older with Alzheimer’s will die in 2030.

To be clear, Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia, but dementia is a general term for a group of symptoms that affect mental functions. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia among older adults. The loss of cognitive function, such as thinking, remembering, and reasoning, translate into behavioral changes that interfere with the sufferer’s daily life. At the beginning, symptoms are mild, but at the most severe stages, Alzheimer’s strips a person of all of his/her independence.

Alzheimer’s disease is named after the physician who examined the brain tissue of a woman who died from an atypical mental illness, finding many abnormal clumps (now called amyloid plaques) and tangled bundles of fibers (now called tau tangles). The scientific, medical, and genetic research isn’t entirely consistent or conclusive in regard to the causes of Alzheimer’s, but there is agreement that the initial damage appears in the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain responsible for forming memories. Neurons die, then eventually additional sections of the brain are affected, which causes the brain tissue to shrink.

The more damage, the more shrinkage, and the more shrinkage, the more severe the symptoms.

Memory problems are typically one of the first signs of impairment. The person will experience increased difficulty organizing their thoughts and remembering recent events such as appointments or conversations. Not all memory problems mean Alzheimer’s though. Some people, as they age, have Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), where they simply have some age-related memory problems (think of it as wear and tear), but their lives aren’t significantly affected. MCI is sometimes a precursor to Alzheimer’s, but certainly not always.

The disease can show itself in different ways from person to person, but according to the Mayo Clinic, the signs and symptoms can generally be categorized as follows:

  1. Abnormal memory loss. This goes beyond the regular “Where did I put my keys?” or “You know me from 25 years ago, what is your name again?” People with Alzheimer’s may repeat statements over and over, forget conversations or appointments, routinely misplace their belongings (sometimes putting them in bizarre places), or get lost in places they know well. They will eventually forget the names of family members as well as of everyday objects such as chairs and toothbrushes.
  2. Thinking and reasoning. Sufferers generally have a tough time concentrating and rationalizing, especially when it comes to abstract ideas such as numbers. Multitasking becomes increasingly difficult as well, making it hard to balance finances and effectively navigate the everyday tasks we all face.
  3. Making decisions and responding to everyday problems. Alzheimer’s sufferers might not know how to deal with something burning on the stove, a change in traffic patterns, etc.
  4. Planning and performing familiar tasks. Preparing and cooking a meal, playing a favorite game, even getting dressed becomes increasingly difficult.
  5. Personality and behavior changes. The brain controls emotions, meaning that Alzheimer’s can affect feelings and cause sufferers to experience depression, indifference, distrust, irritability, wandering, social withdrawal, mood swings, sleep changes, loss of inhibitions, and delusions. Late in the disease, the person loses the ability to do things they’ve known how to do for most of their lives, such as read, dance, enjoy music, do crafts and reminisce. This is because the part of the brain that stores information, skills and habits that we learn early in life are affected later in the course of the disease.

It’s not just the cognitive changes that harm patients with Alzheimer’s. For example, a study from the medical journal Age and Ageing found that seniors suffering from Alzheimer’s are three times more likely to incur a hip fracture than those without the disease. Vision, perception and balance are all out of whack as Alzheimer’s advances, which increases the risk of a fall. A broken hip is extraordinarily painful and requires a trip to the hospital, which often disorients the person even more. In later stages of Alzheimer’s, particularly after loss of the ability to walk independently, the average life expectancy is about one year.

Of those who also suffer from fever, infection, or a hip fracture, more than half die within six months.

When contemplating how to care for someone with Alzheimer’s, many families turn to nursing homes. It’s important to shop around and research the options. Some areas to consider include licensing, cost, care planning, staff requirements, current resident assessment, facility layout, social activities, medication policies, privacy issues, and safety measures. Supervision is an important part of a safe nursing home facility because Alzheimer’s patients are prone to wandering, and their likelihood of elopement means they need to be more closely watched. Not all homes are created equal, with some offering basic care while others are better equipped for dealing with advanced stages of the disease though skilled nursing. There are approximately 170 memory care partner communities in Maryland, with an average monthly cost of $4,342.

Every day, we learn more about this debilitating disease. Researchers are currently studying to see if early brain changes are detectable and to identify the role of health, environmental and lifestyle factors. Until there is a cure, long-term care facilities will be a necessary part of the lives of most Alzheimer’s disease patients. When a facility does not live up to expectations, it must be held accountable for failing to meet its legal obligations. If you need assistance with any legal issues concerning a loved one who is currently living in a Maryland nursing home, call the MD nursing home negligence attorneys at the Law Offices of Roger S. Weinberg, LLC, at 410-825-3161. We are very familiar with the laws that govern elder abuse, and we have successfully handled countless nursing home mistreatment cases. As pioneers in representing nursing home, assisted living and developmental disability victims, we offer a free consultation to evaluate your case. Fill out our contact form or give us a call and turn your worries over to us.

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