By Susan M. Graham, Certified Elder Law Attorney, Senior Edge Legal, Boise, Idaho
Alzheimer’s affects the five senses, not just memory.
One of the most often overlooked consequences of Alzheimer’s Disease is how it affects the way the brain recognizes and processes the five senses.
Most people tend to only pay attention to signs of memory loss. However the sense of sight, smell, taste, hearing and touch are also affected and provide earlier clues about dementia or Alzheimer’s.
If you suspect your loved one may be experiencing any sensory loss, here are some sensory changes to look for as provided by the Alzheimer’s Care Resource Center.
When caring for elders or other persons who suffer from Alzheimer’s, note that they may be physically healthy otherwise, but due to the deterioration of certain parts of the brain, the body doesn’t respond as it should.
- Sight – There may be nothing physically wrong with the eyes of your loved one; however the brain’s ability to interpret the images may be decreased. This can cause confusion, disorientation and the inability to recognize familiar people or places. A few tips to manage this decline would be to:
• Create color contrast between floors and walls to create visual “depth”. • Mark the edges of steps and stairs with brightly colored strips of tape to identify height changes. • Place brightly colored signs or simple pictures on doors for easier identification.
- Smell – It is very common for smell to be the first sense affected by Alzheimer’s disease. In most cases, it is noticed before the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s has been made. It is important to keep refrigerators clear of spoiled food.
- Taste – If you’ve ever noticed that when your nose is stuffy due to a cold or infection, your sense of taste is greatly decreased. The loss of smell plus the added decrease in taste bud sensitivity can really affect the way your loved one tastes things. There is also the danger of confusion, leading them to place hazardous items in their mouths. Some simple recommendations would be to lock up cleaning supplies and consider learning the Heimlich maneuver in case of an emergency.
- Hearing – As in the case of the eyes, a person could test as having perfect hearing, but not be able to process sounds. This can lead to agitation, confusion or over-stimulation. You should avoid excessive noise in the home and avoid large gatherings of people.
- Touch – As with all of the other senses, sensitivity in touch decreases. Depending on how severe the loss is, a person with Alzheimer’s disease may not be able to recognize being cold or hot or even being in pain. Many of the steps recommended are similar to childproofing your house. Things to consider: • Color code water faucet handles. • Place warning signs on the oven and other appliances that get hot. • Cover corners of furniture with padding.
NEW!! “Beyond Retirement” Learning Series. Free 20-minute virtual episodes. Episode Six: “Ways to Administer an Estate After Death” will be available on Wednesday, January 20 from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. and on Saturday, January 23 from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
To register, go to senioredgelegal.com/beyond.
REGISTRATION CLOSES ON THURSDAY, JANUARY 21 AT 5:00 P.M.
Undoubtedly you have thought of someone who could use our services. If so, please have them call us at 208-344-0375. Introductions and referrals are the lifeblood of our practice. Thank you!
 Alzheimer’s Care Resource Center, Victoria Collier, CELA, Georgia