A new study out of the University of Southampton has revealed a link between the cognitive decline of Alzheimer’s disease patients and gum disease. The link between these two things is most likely because of the fact that those with advanced Alzheimer’s have a more difficult time caring for themselves. Gum disease is more common in the elderly, as well, and the link between these two diseases is certainly not a surprise. However, because the link has been made more concrete, it is information that we can use to help our elderly loved ones improve their lives in two very realistic ways.
First, if you already know that your loved one suffers from Alzheimer’s, you can now be better prepared to handle other areas of their health. There’s no cure for Alzheimer’s, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying to improve their quality of life in other areas. Oral hygiene might not seem like a big deal at this phase in life, but it really is. Helping them to brush and floss their teeth can help. If you are unable to do this, an in-home caregiver can. That’s one of the tasks that a caregiver is often charged with, as personal grooming and cleaning can become very difficult when someone suffers from dementia. Other areas of care will need to be addressed, too. These can be done by a family caregiver, of course, but a professional will have a much easier time doing this because of their advanced training.
The other things that this study points out to us is that if your loved one’s oral health is suffering and gum disease is rapidly worsening, there may be a cause for it other than just “getting older.” Looking at things like Alzheimer’s when these things are noticed can help alert us of the disease earlier in its course, when symptoms are still manageable and easier to overcome. Again, there’s not a cure for this disease, but if it is known to be present early on, steps can be taken to alleviate symptoms. This might not do much to increase their lifespan, but it might make their remaining time better overall. Everyone wants their beloved family members to be as happy as possible, and early detection of Alzheimer’s can help this.
Obviously nobody wishes that their mom or dad will be diagnosed with such a devastating disease, but if it does happen, knowing about it sooner rather than later is a good thing. This study gives us one more thing to look out for when it comes to our families so that we can be more proactive with their care. One of the things to consider, as alluded to above, is senior care. In-home care works for many, but not everyone. In-home care is great for maintaining current standards of living as closely as possible, though, and the earlier that Alzheimer’s is detected, the longer this quality of life can be adhered to. Consulting with a physician will help you and your family to more accurately determine if this is the best course of action.