• Consumer Health: Alzheimer’s disease and caring for the caregiver

a portrait of two women, one elderly, the other middle age, perhaps a mother and daughter

Alzheimer's disease is a progressive disorder that causes brain cells to waste away and die. Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia, which is a term used to describe a group of symptoms that affect memory, thinking and social abilities severely enough to interfere with daily function.

Memory loss is the key symptom of Alzheimer's disease. An early sign of the disease is difficulty remembering recent events or conversations. As the disease progresses, memory impairment persists and worsens, affecting the ability to function at work or at home.

Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's disease can be overwhelming. Caregivers often must manage all daily tasks and personal care for their loved one. People with Alzheimer's may experience wandering, late-day confusion or difficulty sleeping, which can mean caregiving responsibilities continue around the clock.

There may be difficult conversations and decisions, such as when a loved one with Alzheimer's disease needs to stop driving and when planning for end-of-life needs becomes necessary. Caregivers may experience caregiver guilt, and the holidays can be especially difficult for families affected by Alzheimer's. And despite the stress, caregivers often have difficulty taking care of themselves or asking for help.

If you know someone who's caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's disease or dementia, here's how you can help.

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