Introducing Activity Lending Kits!

Everything you need for hours of engagement all in one neat kit!

Don’t struggle to try to think of things to do that will engage your loved one—just check out one of our activity kits! Each kit has hours of different activities and there are tons of themes to choose from!

We make it simple: keep your kit for up to one week, return it, and check out another one.

Kits may be picked up at:
922 E. Colfax Ave.
South Bend, IN 46617

There is no charge to check out a kit, however, a credit card hold is required. Still have questions? No problem! Contact us at info@alzni.org or call 574-232-4121.c

Assisted Living Checklist

Looking for a new home for a loved one can be a daunting process. Assuring that your loved one gets quality care is not only your responsibility but your right.

This checklist is very comprehensive and is intended to help guide you toward making the best choice possible. Some of the questions on this checklist may be more important to you than others, but you should be aware of the importance of all of them.

View and download the checklist ›

Lending Library

Our lending library contains books, videos, and pamphlets regarding various aspects of dementia and the caregiving process.

Speaker’s Bureau

A speaker is available to community groups, churches, etc. — regarding Alzheimer’s-related issues. Please call if you’d like a speaker for your group, club, civic organization, church, and more.

Toll-Free Telephone Support

Alzheimer’s and Dementia Services of Northern Indiana offers confidential telephone service that provides emotional support, disease information, caregiving tips and support, and referral to local community services. Call 888-303-0180 or 574-232-4121.

Definitions

Normal Age-Associated Memory Loss

  • Slowdown of the ability to process new information (e.g., learn a new card game
  • Slowdown of short-term memory (e.g., where did I put my keys, glasses?)
  • Slowdown of search and retrieval functions (e.g., forgetting names, words

Dementia

  • The loss of cognitive or intellectual function, such as thinking, remembering, and reasoning, so severe that it interferes with a person’s daily functioning and everyday life
  • Not a disease in itself, but a group of symptoms that accompanies certain diseases or physical conditions
  • Symptoms include poor judgment, disorientation, short attention span
  • More than 50 different types of dementia exist, 15-20% are treatable, so it is important to get a comprehensive clinical assessment

Treatable Dementia (or “Pseudo-dementia”)

  • Depression
  • Alcoholism
  • Drug reactions
  • Thyroid disorders (or other metabolic)
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Brain tumors
  • Head injuries
  • Infections (e.g., AIDS, meningitis, UTI)
  • Grief reactions
  • Vision and hearing loss
  • Fatigue

Causes of Progressive Dementia

About Alzheimer’s Disease

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

  • NOT a normal part of aging (senility, hardening of the arteries, or organic brain syndrome were terms used years ago to describe what we now call dementia)
  • The most common form of dementia
  • A progressive, degenerative neurological illness
  • Marked by gradual onset
  • Destroys brain cells, results in structural and chemical changes.
  • Brain cells are not replaced.
  • Characterized by plaques and tangles in the brain
  • Caused still undetermined
  • Course of disease can take 2-20 or more years; average 8-10 years

Alzheimer’s Disease is NOT…

  • A mental illness
  • A normal part of aging
  • Senility
  • Contagious
  • A result of using aluminum pans or foil
  • A result of Lyme or any other disease
  • Preventable
  • Reversible
  • A “funny” disease
  • A race-oriented disease
  • Only for older adults

Alzheimer’s Disease IS…

  • A medical illness
  • The most common type of dementia
  • A progressive, degenerative and neurological illness
  • Characterized by chemical and structural changes in the brain
  • Affecting approximately 4.5 million Americans
  • Affecting about 10.3% of people, of all races, and gender, 65 years of age or older
  • Also affecting persons in their 30s and 40s
  • The fourth leading cause of death among adults
  • Diagnosed 100% only through brain autopsy after death

A person with Alzheimer’s Disease can…

  • Perform simple tasks
  • Enjoy previous hobbies, if somewhat modified
  • Enjoy favorite foods, music and activities
  • Show love and affection
  • Experience emotions such as sadness, fear, loneliness and anger
  • Accuse others of false actions and behaviors
  • Act suspiciously toward other people
  • Lose or hide items
  • Curse, strike out, cry, spit or act inappropriately
  • Respond to voice tone and eye contact
  • Experience pain or discomfort from other conditions
  • Respond to supportive, predictable environment

A person with Alzheimer’s Disease cannot…

  • Communicate clearly
  • Understand fragmented or abstract thoughts
  • Understand sarcasm or humor
  • Understand open-ended questions
  • Express him/herself coherently
  • Cooperate consistently
  • Respond to reason
  • Learn new things
  • Make decisions
  • Drive, as the disease progresses
  • Recognize familiar objects or people
  • Understand what an object is
  • Complete a task without directions
  • Comprehend complex orders
  • Maintain past skills
  • Control all actions
  • Participate in conversations in the later stages

Warning signs of Alzheimer’s Disease

  • Increasing incidences of short-term memory loss that effects everyday living of job
  • Difficulty doing familiar things such as using an appliance or tying a tie
  • Forgetting common words, using the wrong word, or having problems naming a common object, such as a pencil
  • Putting things in strange places or frequently losing or misplacing things
  • Getting lost or disoriented easily, even in familiar places; disorientation to time or place
  • Problems with complicated tasks, or with abstract thinking (e.g., balancing a checkbook)
  • Problems with judgment (doing things that don’t seem to make sense)
  • Major change in personality (e.g., confused, afraid, suspicious) or sudden changes in mood or behavior
  • Losing interest in doing things (or losing interest quickly if not encouraged)

How Alzheimer’s Disease Affects the Brain

The disease is characterized by the gradual spread of sticky plaques and clumps of tangled fibers that disrupt the delicate organization of nerve cells in the brain. As brain cells stop communicating with one another, they atrophy – causing memory and reasoning to fade.

Tangles and plaques first develop in the entorhinal cortex, a memory-processing center essential for making new memories and retrieving old ones.

Over time, they appear higher, invading the hippocampus, the part of the brain that forms complex memories of events or objects.

Finally the tangles and plaques reach the top of the brain, or neocortex, the “executive” region that sorts through stimuli and orchestrates all behavior.

A brain ravaged by Alzheimer’s shrinks in size and weight as the disease destroys neural tissue. The once tightly packed ruts and grooves on the surface of a healthy cerebral cortex become visibly pitted with gaps and crevices.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease

How is Alzheimer’s Disease Diagnosed?

Currently, there is no one clinical test that can determine whether a person has Alzheimer’s disease. There seems to be some hope on the horizon that a test will be developed in the future. Many conditions exist which exhibit similar symptoms to Alzheimer’s; some are treatable and reversible, some are not. Several tests must be performed to rule out any of the conditions or diseases that can be clinically diagnosed. At this point, the only definitive test for Alzheimer’s disease is examination of brain tissue obtained from biopsy or autopsy. Biopsy is almost never done.  The usual course is diagnosis at autopsy. There is an accepted criteria established by the NINCDS Work Group (National Institute of Neurological and Communicative Disorders) that is widely used. Following this criteria, the results are considered about 90% accurate and involve the following:

  • A DETAILED MEDICAL AND SOCIAL HISTORY because of the wide range of possible causes of dementia, a detailed history is exceptionally important. It may be obtained from the patient (if possible), from the best informed relative or acquaintance available, and/or from past medical records. Also, a careful history of events that have affected the patient’s emotional status is important to have. Special attention should be given to whether onset of symptoms was gradual or sudden.
  • MEDICATION INVENTORY because a complete inventory of prescription and over-the-counter drugs is necessary. Drugs and the interaction of drugs may cause dementia-like symptoms. A urine screen may be indicated to determine the presence of some drugs.
  • HISTORY OF SUBSTANCE ABUSE OR MISUSE/INTOXICATION can be the cause of usual behavior or may complicate the problems associated with a dementing disorder or condition.
  • A COMPLETE PHYSICAL EXAMINATION should be thorough since diseases present in many organs systems may cause dementia or delirium. Special emphasis and attention should be given to the neurological examination.
  • A MENTAL STATUS EXAMINATION includes an evaluation of level of consciousness; attention; orientation; short-term memory; long-term memory; language ability (including naming, repeating, understanding, reading, writing); ability to draw of copy; calculating ability; manipulation of knowledge (as in proverb interpretation or identifying similarities between words); affect; stream and content of thought; judgment.
  • LABORATORY TESTS AND SCREENING with the following included: complete blood cell count; electrolyte panel; screening metabolic panel; thyroid gland function tests; vitamin B-12 and folate levels; tests for syphilis and, depending upon history, for human immunodeficiency antibodies; urinalysis; electrodardiogram (ECG); chest roentgenagram. Some type of brain scan – Computerized Tomography (CT) or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), and an electroencephalograph (EEG). A lumbar puncture may also be indicated.
  • PSYCHIATRIC ASSESSMENT evaluation may be indicated especially if there is a significant history of depression or other psychiatric illnesses.  Depression may be so severe that it produces a true cognitive deficit that is reversible with successful treatment. Depression commonly is present with other causes of dementia, especially Alzheimer’s disease.

Diagnosis Specialists

For information on how to contact each of the above in your area, contact our toll-free Helpline, 888-303-0180.

Neurologist

  • Does neurological testing (CT-Scan or MRI)

Neuropsychologist

  • Tests memory, language, reasoning and arithmetic skills

Psychiatrist

  • Assesses for depression/other psychiatric disorders
  • Manages medications

Internist/Geriatrician

  • Does complete physical exam
  • Acts as primary care physician

What Are the Benefits of Early Diagnosis?

  • To treat reversible causes early in their course and prevent inappropriate treatment
  • Medications most effective when started early and in early stages
  • A starting point for acceptance and discussion
  • Disease education minimizes the stress of “unknown”
  • Disease education and strategies teach families how to better respond to a person’s needs and changes throughout
  • Patients can be offered participation in drug trials
  • Allows AD person and family to plan for the future and address legal, financial, and family matters
  • Allows AD person and family to maximize life opportunities (e.g., take that vacation they’ve been saving for)
  • Allows AD person and family to address safety issues