Let’s say hello again to guest-blogger Jim Vogel, co-founder of ElderAction. Jim and his wife Caroline dedicate their time to helping ensure that senior citizens thrive throughout their golden years by sharing pertinent resources and information. Today he provides a somber but important message:
Alzheimer’s disease is a specific type of dementia that largely affects seniors over the age of 65. Over five million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s; 36 million people are affected worldwide. The disease can progress over the course of anywhere from two to 20 years, but the average amount of time people with Alzheimer’s live after diagnosis is only eight to 10 years. Early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is very important. The earlier signs of dementia are caught, the more effective medications and therapy are at treating it.
Early signs of Alzheimer’s disease include:
- Memory loss
- Issues with planning and problem solving
- Ordinary tasks are suddenly difficult
- Confusion with times and places
- Vision changes
- Troubles with vocabulary and communication
- Misplacing items
- Poor judgments concerning things like money or hygiene
- Social withdrawal and loss of motivation
- Mood swings that include feeling depressed, scared, or anxious
Caregiving, Downsizing, and Alzheimer’s
If a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, they will eventually need a caregiver to handle their needs. Caregiving involves ensuring they make it to doctor’s appointments, and emotionally supporting them in the event of a loss, among many other tasks. An important thing that caregivers can help Alzheimer’s patients with is beginning the process of downsizing. While an Alzheimer’s patient may be able to age in place during the early stages of the disease, they will need to move to an assisted living situation for their health and safety as it progresses. Starting the downsizing process as soon as possible will make that transition less stressful.
What to Throw Out
Ask friends or family if they have a paper shredder you can use during the downsizing process, because a lot of the trash will be documents and files that are no longer needed. A lot of the information in these documents may be useless, but it’s better to shred than be sorry. Also, prepare to throw out clothes that are unwearable — things that are stained, stretched out, ripped, or destroyed. If you really hate the idea of adding more clothing to your local landfill, you can give old threads a new life through a textile recycling program. You should also be prepared to throw out memorabilia, including old trophies, medals, and awards. And while you can hold on to some physical copies of photos, you’ll want to free up space by trashing a majority of them. Consider investing in a tablet and uploading images of each photo so your loved one can have a digital photo album they can flip through whenever they want.
What to Donate
Kitchen gadgets and small appliances (think: toaster, waffle iron, mixer, etc) are great donations for local charities, especially if they’re in good condition. Old holiday decorations are also great for thrift shops — just avoid donating things like strings of lights with the bulbs blown out. Finally, clothes that are in good enough condition to wear again can be donated to nonprofits. Consider looking into specific charities for certain outfits. For instance, if your loved one still has a number of office-appropriate dresses and suits in her closet, Dress for Success is an international not-for-profit that empowers women to achieve economic independence by providing them with clothes and skills they need to land a job.
What to Sell
Books and movies are perhaps the easiest items to sell, though you likely won’t make much off of what you get rid of. Contact your local used bookstores and see if they offer a pick-up service. Furniture is another smart thing to sell. List items on sites like Craigslist or Letgo to make some money off items that deserve a second chance. If you’re really motivated, try throwing a yard sale to get rid of everything from framed artwork to throw pillows. After the sale is done, you can contact a local thrift shop to pick up whatever is leftover.
Alzheimer’s patients may be able to care for themselves in the early stages, but eventually, a caretaker has to step in and help. One of the things to start with early is downsizing possessions for when they move out of their current home. Above all, caregivers should be there physically and emotionally for their senior loved ones during the downsizing process.