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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

“General practitioners are not trained in early diagnosis and treatment, and just kept sending me home saying, ‘Well, they seem normal to us for their ages,'” she said.

Once Marcell found doctors knowledgeable about dementia, doctors ran blood, brain and memory tests. There is no known cure for Alzheimer's and no single test that can prove whether someone has Alzheimer's. However, through a medical evaluation that involves some testing, doctors can almost always determine whether a person has dementia, according to the Alzheimer's Association.

Once the doctors performed the tests, they were able to rule out reversible dementias, like a folate or B12 deficiency or a thyroid problem. Marcell then worked with doctors to get her parents on proper medications, which helped keep them cognitively aware longer.

What's the hardest part for an adult child caring for his or her parents?

The emotional toll of caregiving can be the hardest part, she said.

“It's not a sprint — you've got to prepare for a marathon,” she said. “Caregiving typically takes a long time, and it's not a straight line. There are so many twists and turns in trying to manage.”

No one likes change, and caregiving requires flexibility and support, she said.

Marcell recommends asking family and friends what they are capable of helping with. Also, it can be helpful for caregivers' mental states to find support groups. Additionally, it's important for caregivers to take care of themselves. They put themselves at risk if they don't get help, she said.

“It's not something you can handle by yourself, and as strong as you think you are, you've got to put yourself first so that you don't get sick,” she said. “So many caregivers get sick because they don't put themselves first and are just so stressed with the care.”

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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