Nurse practitioner Amy Stump sees the struggles of Alzheimer's patients first–hand, and says that fear of change is often one of their biggest concerns when it comes to telling family and friends that they're experiencing symptoms of the disease.
"The patients are aware that they do have some cognitive thought processes different than what they used to have, and it can be very scary to them," Stump said, "So instead of talking about it, they will hide it from their physicians, they will they will hide it from their loved ones. They don't want to change their life — number one — but number two... it could prevent them from living in their own home, and move them into a nursing home, which is something they don't want to do."
Associate director of the Alzheimer's Association, Alexandra Dillon says the stigma associated with the disease discourages most patients from speaking out, too.
"They don't want people to see that they're not able to function in the way that they knew they could in the past," she said. "They're very uncomfortable with letting people know that they're losing their ability to think as clearly and make decisions, and even communicate. And so they withdraw, and when they withdraw they become isolated. It's terrible."
But an Alzheimer's diagnosis doesn't have to mean the end of independence for the patient.
"You can definitely still live alone, as long as you put some safety measures in place," Stump said.
Staying organized, she says, is the key to maintaining some of that freedom.
"Structure's very important," she said. "Using clocks, using calendars to write down the dates and times of things so it helps you remember. Those are things that can allow you to stay in your home, and live independently for a longer period of time."
Experts say if you suspect that your loved one is be hiding symptoms of Alzheimer's, there are some signs you can be on the lookout for. Difficulty remembering names and recent events; depression; confusion with time or place; dressing inappropriately for the weather; and difficulty speaking, swallowing and walking are some common symptoms of the disease.
For more information and resources about Alzheimer's, contact the Kearney chapter of the Alzheimer's Association at (308) 440-7773, or visit www.alz.org.