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Alzheimer's Dementia affects the short term memory as the first and predominating feature of a progressive cognitive decline. Medium and long term memory are often very good until the end stages of the disease. Verbal and social skills may remain intact for a significant length of time in the early stages. The diagnosis is usually suspected by the family members of the patient rather than the patient themselves. The patients are more likely to be very frightened and confused because they become lost doing a very familiar activity.

Granny forgetting to turn off the stove or Grandpa losing the car in the shopping centre happens a lot. It is surprising how many elderly people burn the stash of cash they forgot in the oven. Sooner or later someone will recognize that the old folks are not eating very well if they are not supervised for shopping, cooking and other activities of self care. Often families will begin to worry about the banking and bill paying habits and consider that a Power of Attorney should be established. The issues of competency are quite complex and should be faced sooner rather than later.

Frequently the family member who first suspects the diagnosis of Alzheimer's Dementia becomes the Care Giver for the patient. This is a task which progressively increases in demands often to the point of the Care Giver "burning out" or becoming ill themselves with the increased work loads. The Level of Care that a patient needs should be established early and reviewed frequently not only to adequately help the patient but also the Care Giver. The rate at which an Alzheimer patient progresses from supervision in the home to a locked Extended Care Unit is variable but one should not assume the longer end of this range in making plans.



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