Douglas Scharre, M.D., author of Long-Term Management of Dementia and director of the division of cognitive and memory disorders at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, explains how to manage such often-difficult care.
With Alzheimer’s disease, a loved one can seem lucid one day and unrecognizable the next. Why?
Alzheimer’s is a slow process in which toxic proteins build up in specific areas of the brain, starting with the area where you form new memories. So if you have conversation with someone in early stages, they may not remember the lunch they had with you yesterday, but they may be able to talk about a wonderful anniversary dinner from three years ago, because they’re accessing a stored memory in the part of the brain that’s not damaged.
The disease also causes you to lose brain cells, so you have less of a reserve when something throws you off, such as a bad night’s sleep or being under the weather. So they might seem OK, but if they didn’t sleep well, they can have much more trouble because they don’t have the reserves.