What is Alzheimer's Disease?

10 Questions About Alzheimer’s

Carol Bradley Bursack Apr 10th, 2013 (updated May 6th, 2014)
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Here are questions HealthCentral visitors have asked about Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, along with my answers.

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What is the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia?
What is the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia?

A. Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is one type of dementia among many, though it is considered to be the most common type. Others include vascular dementia, fronto-temporal dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies, Parkinson’s dementia and normal pressure hydrocephalus. People can actually have more than one type of dementia.

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How do I get them to stop repeating the questions?
How do I get them to stop repeating the questions?

A. You can’t. Your mother’s short-term memory is being destroyed. She doesn’t remember that she just asked you the question, even if it was only five minutes ago. Once you accept this fact, it’s easier to cope with. Try to distract her from the issue and redirect her to another interest.  Acceptance, compassion, patience and humor will go a long way.

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My dad thinks everyone steals when he just misplaces things.
My dad thinks everyone steals when he just misplaces things.

A. This behavior can stem from memory loss or from paranoia. Try to understand the reason behind his behavior, and redirect him when possible. It’s heartbreaking to be accused of stealing by someone we love, but arguing won’t help and may increase paranoia.

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My brother has Power Of Attorney and I think he is taking money.
My brother has Power Of Attorney and I think he is taking money.

A. Be sure there's no misunderstanding. A false accusation could destroy your family. If your brother won’t share financial information and you are certain you’re right, you could get in touch with an attorney who specializes in elder care law. 

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Is adult day care helpful to someone with Alzheimer’s?
Is adult day care helpful to someone with Alzheimer’s?

A. Adult day care can be a wonderful way to give a person with dementia time to socialize with peers and engage in meaningful activities. It’s also helpful for the caregiver so that he or she can take a break from the stress of caregiving.

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Does Medicare pay for assisted living or nursing homes?
Does Medicare pay for assisted living or nursing homes?

A. No. Medicare does pay for a set number of days in a nursing home when someone on Medicare is released from the hospital, but that is generally under a month. It does not pay for assisted living or nursing home care long-term.

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My mom lives on Social Security and has nothing saved. What do I do?
My mom lives on Social Security and has nothing saved. What do I do?

A. Start the Medicaid process immediately. Call Social Services for your county and ask what financial information they will need. Your mom will likely qualify for Medicaid once all of the paperwork is done. Medicaid pays for a set number of rooms in many nursing homes. 

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How do I get my siblings to help care for our mother?
How do I get my siblings to help care for our mother?

A. Ask each one to do something specific instead of just saying you need help. It’s possible they don’t know what to do since they live away from their mother. If they won’t help, tell them you are hiring an agency to provide some in-home care and will send them the bill.

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My siblings constantly criticize me because I care for Mom.
My siblings constantly criticize me because I care for Mom.

A. Your siblings might not understand that a person with AD is often frightened, confused and cranky. If they are willing to learn, suggest the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America website. Tell them that you are doing your best, and offer to let them take over if they think they can make her happier.

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My mother has Alzheimer’s and she is constantly angry with me.
My mother has Alzheimer’s and she is constantly angry with me.

A. Your mother is confused, frightened and anxious, so she takes it out on the person closest to her. This isn’t your fault. However, if it’s too hard for you to care for her by yourself, you need to hire help or else look into assisted living.