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Alzheimer's can be difficult to recognize in your own parents

Author Jacqueline Marcell recently came to Oklahoma City to share her experiences with caring for her parents, who both suffered from dementia.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Modified: November 16, 2013 at 10:00 pm •  Published: November 16, 2013

Jacqueline Marcell spent a year frustrated with misinformation.

She was caring for her parents, who were both exhibiting signs of Alzheimer's, a debilitating disease that gradually steals a person's memory and brain function.

“When I finally solved it medically, behaviorally, socially, legally, financially and emotionally, I said, ‘Oh my gosh, why didn't any of these health care professionals I've come in contact with this whole year direct me properly?' I finally solved it by calling the Alzheimer's Association,” she said.

Marcell recently visited Oklahoma City to discuss her book, “Elder Rage, or Take My Father ... Please! How To Survive Caring For Aging Parents.” She answered questions about the lessons she learned from caring for her parents.

Why was it difficult to recognize Alzheimer's in your parents?

Marcell took care of her parents at home during the first year. During that time, she didn't know what the warning signs of Alzheimer's were, she said. Once she called the Alzheimer's Association, they shared with her the early warning signs.

Those include suffering from memory loss that disrupts daily life, challenges in planning and solving problems, confusion with time and place, difficulty completing familiar tasks at home and withdrawal from work or social activities.

“Nobody had shown me that before, and I was just chalking up all the odd behaviors they were doing to old age and stress and had no idea it could also be the beginning of some type of dementia in them, namely Alzheimer's,” she said.

Like many first-time caregivers, Marcell didn't have experience in caring for older people. Many adult children who serve as caregivers start out without much knowledge about the best care for their ailing parents, she said. For example, she quickly learned about the Alzheimer's Association's 24/7 helpline, available at (800) 272-3900.

“There's a strong learning curve, and you don't even realize that there are the amount of resources out there like the Alzheimer's Association and specialists in all forms of dementia,” she said.

What steps did you take to ensure quality medical care for your parents?

Marcell found doctors who were knowledgeable about Alzheimer's. It can be helpful and ensure better care when you find your family member a neurologist who specializes in dementia, and a geriatrician, a doctor trained in treating people 65 or older, especially if that doctor has experience in diagnosing dementia.

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by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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