There is treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. Realistically, Alzheimer’s gives ample time to be proactive. It is a slowly progressive neurological disease that unfolds over the course of several decades. Treatment involves being proactive rather than reactive. These are the steps we all need to take beginning now.
Assessment. We all have wellness plans that are managed through annual physicals with our physicians. We need to include annual memory assessment by a memory expert as a part of this plan. The assessment should, at the minimum, thoroughly assess short-term memory by means of a challenging, standardized memory test and be administered by a memory expert.
Treat short-term memory before it changes. We seem to lose track of the fact that we took notes in school to manage short-term memory. It never worked like a muscle. It takes time, focus, and effort to remember. Incorporate the One Minute Rule into your everyday life before it becomes the “two minute rule.”
Put legal directives in place. Make sure you have wills, Living Wills, Durable Powers of Attorney, and trusts up to date. You need to have these documents in place before you need them. Make sure your representatives know where things are.
Create a family plan. If you are concerned about your memory or have greater risk for future memory loss, have a family meeting and openly discuss your concerns, the details of assessments, your goals, and how to manage if you decline. This plan should be created before you need it to protect everyone involved. Plan for a good life as you age even if your memory fails. Let your family know your desires and needs.
Finances. Make a plan about finances. Have a system that includes sometime checking your abilities to manage estates, investments, and checkbooks. Have a plan for transfer early if these skills decline.
Driving. Make a plan to monitor your driving skills. Consider having periodic on road assessments by certified driving evaluators. Make a plan for stopping driving if you become unsafe and include a way to get around if you can’t drive.
Exercise. The most protective activity that you can either maintain or add to your life is regular exercise. There is increasing evidence that moderate exercise reduces some of the wear and tear on the brain that result from aging. Aim for about 2 two and a half hour a week as a minimum.
Know the options for assistance if needed. What are your options for assistance if you and your family need care in the future. What are the services that come into the home? Where are day care centers? Where are the memory care facilities? Consider participating in educational programs by agencies like the Alzheimer’ Support Network in Naples. Know what your options are before you need them.
Stay engaged in your interests. You need to have an active plan to keep socially and intellectually engaged. So do those who care for you. Make sure you calendar has activities that you love to do in addition to what you have to do.