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A Personal Look At Alzheimer's Disease

For Linda Arthur, having control of her daily schedule is very important.

“You know your momma, it’s gotta be just right,” she said to her daughter, Maxine Madlopah, in Madlopah’s Fort Worth kitchen.

One example of Arthur’s quest for consistency, is she likes to eat the same thing, at exactly the same time, every single day.

She also, “has to take her medicine 30 minutes apart, it can’t be 31, it can’t be 35, it has to be 30,” Madlopah said about her mother. “So if she gets out of schedule, she’s not having it.”

Madlopah is also her mother’s primary caregiver. She was laid off from a leadership position at her job, and now she takes care of her mother’s needs.

Tia Viera from the Alzheimer’s Association of North Central Texas, describes their upcoming seminar for caregivers.

“Every aspect of her life needs assistance, and kind of like reassurance,” Madlopah said.

She explained that repetition is her mom’s way of having control, at a time, when she knows she’s losing that control.

“She came to me and she said, ‘I’m starting to lose my memory. I can’t remember things like I used to.’ And she was telling me that made her a little fearful,” Madlopah said.

At the time, her mom was in her mid-50s. Then, when she was in her 60s, she was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s.

“It’s like, I’m somebody else now . . . Alzheimer’s is in my body, and I don’t want it here, you know, but there’s nothing I can do,” Arthur said. “I wouldn’t wish this on nobody.”

Madlopah explained what living with Alzheimer’s disease looks like in their family and how it effects them.

Tia Viera from the Alzheimer’s Association of North Central Texas, explains what is happening in the brain to cause the effects of Alzheimer’s.

“If she’s having a good day, we’re having a good day,” Madlopah said about her mother. “If she’s having a difficult day or she’s, you know, going through the stages of emotion: anger, sadness, frustration, it can be challenging.”

They receive emotional support and guidance from the Alzheimer’s Association of North Central Texas.

The non-profit’s Diversity Coordinator, Tia Viera, talked us through the research from the Alzheimer’s Association that shows African Americans are two-times more likely to get Alzheimer’s disease than their white counterparts.

The organization’s website states, “According to the Alzheimer’s Association’s® 2010 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures, African-Americans are about two times more likely and Hispanics are about one and one-half times more likely than their white counterparts to have Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Although whites make up the great majority of the more than five million people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias, African-Americans and Hispanics are at higher risk for developing the disease. There are no known genetic factors that can explain the greater prevalence of Alzheimer’s and other dementias in African-Americans and Hispanics than in whites.”

Tia Viera from the Alzheimer’s Association of North Central Texas, describes the mission of the organization.

Instead, Viera said contributing factors can be high blood pressure and diabetes.

“That’s what we want to emphasize—how important it is to see your doctor on a regular basis,” Viera said. “If you start to notice some of these signs, don’t be afraid to talk about it.”

Arthur and her daughter hope that sharing their story will motivate those at risk to seek support.

November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. The disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Madlopah is one of 16.1 million Americans who provide full-time care without pay for loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease.

The Alzheimer’s Association of North Central Texas is hosting an educational seminar for care givers on February 2 at the TCC South Campus in the Student Center. Viera said this event is hoping to reach caregivers in the African American community, but everyone is invited to attend.

Tia Viera with The Alzheimer's Association provided the following content regarding the warning signs of Alzheimer's:

Know the Ten Warning Signs

Your memory often changes as you grow older. But memory loss that disrupts daily life is not a typical part of aging. It may be a symptom of dementia.

Dementia is a slow decline in memory, thinking and reasoning skills. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia.

We have developed a list of warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease.

Every individual may experience one or more of these in different degrees. If you notice any of them, please see a doctor.

1) Memory changes that disrupt daily life

One of the most common signs of Alzheimer’s, especially in the early stages, is forgetting recently learned information.

Others include forgetting important dates or events; asking for the same information over and over; relying on memory aides (for example, reminder notes or electronic devices) or family members for things they used to handle on their own.

Typical age-related changes include sometimes forgetting names or appointments, but remembering them later.

2) Challenges in planning or solving problems

Some people may experience changes in their ability to develop and follow a plan or work with numbers.

They may have trouble following a familiar recipe or keeping track of monthly bills, or they may have difficulty concentrating and take much longer to do things than they did before.

Making occasional errors when balancing a checkbook is a typical age-related change.

3) Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure

People with Alzheimer’s often find it hard to complete daily tasks. Sometimes, people may have trouble driving to a familiar location, managing a budget at work or remembering the rules of a favorite game.

Occasionally needing help to use the settings on a microwave or to record a television show is a typical age-related change.

4) Confusion with time or place

People with Alzheimer’s can lose track of dates, seasons and the passage of time. They may have trouble understanding something if it is not happening immediately.

Sometimes they may forget where they are or how they got there.

A typical age-related change is experiencing confusion about what day it is but later figuring it out.

5) Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships

Having vision problems is a sign of Alzheimer’s for some people.

They may have difficulty reading, judging distance and determining color or contrast. In terms of perception, they may pass a mirror and think someone else is in the room. They may not realize they are the person in the mirror.

Vision changes related to cataracts is a typical age-related change.

6) New problems with words in speaking or writing

People with Alzheimer’s may have trouble following or joining a conversation.

They may stop in the middle of a conversation and have no idea how to continue or they may repeat themselves. They may struggle with vocabulary, have problems finding the right word or call things by the wrong name.

A typical age-related change is sometimes having difficulty finding the right word.

7) Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps

A person with Alzheimer’s disease may put things in unusual places.

They may lose things and be unable to go back over their steps to find them again. Sometimes, they may accuse others of stealing. This may occur more frequently over time.

Misplacing things from time to time is a typical age-related change.

8) Decreased or poor judgment

People with Alzheimer’s may experience changes in judgment or decision-making.

They may use poor judgment when dealing with money, giving large amounts to telemarketers. They may pay less attention to grooming or keeping themselves clean.

Making a bad decision once in a while is a typical age-related change.

9) Withdrawal from work or social activities

A person with Alzheimer’s may start to remove themselves from hobbies, social activities, work projects or sports.

They may have trouble keeping up with a favorite sports team or remembering how to complete a favorite hobby.

They may also avoid being social because of the changes they have experienced.

A typical age-related change is sometimes feeling weary of work, family and social obligations.

10) Changes in mood and personality

The mood and personalities of people with Alzheimer’s can change. They can become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious.

They may be easily upset at home, at work, with friends or in places where they are out of their comfort zone.

Developing very specific ways of doing things and becoming irritable when a routine is disrupted is a typical age-related change.

Mood changes with age may also be a sign of some other condition. Consult a doctor if you observe any changes.

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