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Alzheimer's Disease (cont.)

Prevention

At this time, there is no known way to prevent Alzheimer's disease. But there are things that may make it less likely.

Adults who are physically active may be less likely than adults who aren't physically active to get Alzheimer's disease or another type of dementia. Moderate activity is safe for most people, but it's always a good idea to talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program.

Older adults who stay mentally active may be at lower risk for Alzheimer's disease. Reading, playing cards and other games, working crossword puzzles, and even watching television or listening to the radio may help them avoid symptoms of the disease. So can going out and remaining as socially active as possible. Although this "use it or lose it" approach hasn't been proved, no harm can come from regularly putting the brain to work.

People who eat more fruits and vegetables, high-fiber foods, fish, and omega-3 rich oils (sometimes known as the Mediterranean diet) and who eat less red meat and dairy may have some protection against dementia.

Home Treatment

Most people who have Alzheimer's disease are cared for at home by family members and friends. Taking care of someone with the disease can be physically and emotionally draining, but there are ways to make it easier.

Home treatment involves teamwork among health professionals and caregivers to create a safe and comfortable environment and to make tasks of daily living as easy as possible. Some people with early or mild Alzheimer's disease can be involved in planning for the future and organizing the home and daily tasks.

One of the keys to successful home care is educating yourself. You can do a lot to make the most of the person's remaining abilities, manage the problems that develop, and improve the quality of his or her life as well as your own. Also remember that caregiving can be a positive experience for you and the person you are caring for.

Tips for caregivers

Work with the team of health professionals to:

The team can also help you learn how to manage behavior problems. For example, you can learn ways to:

Caregivers should remember to seek support from other family and friends. Groups such as the Alzheimer's Association and the Dementia Advocacy and Support Network can provide not only educational materials but also information on support groups and services. For more information, see the topic Caregiver Tips.

Plan for the future

As Alzheimer's disease progresses, you have decisions to make about medical care and legal issues.

  • A nursing home or assisted living. Providing care at home usually becomes more and more challenging. The decision to place a family member in a nursing home or other facility can be a very difficult one. But sometimes nursing home placement is the best choice.
    Click here to view a Decision Point.Alzheimer's Disease: Should I Move My Relative Into Long-Term Care?
  • Palliative care. This is a kind of care for people who have illnesses that don't go away and that often get worse over time. Palliative care focuses on improving quality of life—not only in the body but also in the mind and spirit. Talk to your doctor if you are interested in this type of care. See the topic Palliative Care.
  • End-of-life care. You may want to discuss health care and other legal issues that may arise near the end of life. An advance directive or living will lets people with the disease give others their health care instructions. To learn more, see the topic Care at the End of Life.
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