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A Q&A with Howard Gilman, MD, About Alzheimer’s Disease

Howard Gilman, MD, is board-certified in psychiatry, geriatric psychiatry, and forensic psychiatry. At Christian Health, he serves as Medical Executive and as the psychiatrist for Southgate behavior-management unit.

My 75-year-old mother is having memory issues. She keeps repeating the same questions over and over. Is this a warning sign of Alzheimer’s disease?

“Repeating can occur for many reasons. It can be a symptom of anxiety, depression, and, of course, dementia. Your mother should be evaluated by a psychiatrist to determine the cause of the repetition. This evaluation will also lead to possible treatments to address the problem.”

My grandmother was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. What should I consider as a caregiver?

“Making sure to take time to care for your own needs is the first principle in taking care or your grandmother. In fact, caregiver burnout, a condition consisting of depressive symptoms, is a real problem that occurs for many caregivers. A caregiver must find the right balance between providing care and support and taking time for one’s own needs. Alzheimer’s dementia is a progressive disease in which there are profound changes over time. Providing care is hard work. By making sure you take time to care for yourself, you will be in a better position to provide care to your grandmother.”

My father has Alzheimer’s disease. Will he end up in a nursing home?

“Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive illness. The average length of time from diagnosis until death averages about eight years. During that period, many changes will occur. In the early phases there are often memory problems. As the illness progresses there can be changes in personality (periods of irritability or anger, changes in mood), changes in behavior (wandering, resistance to care), and loss of ability to take care of activities of daily living such as toileting, eating, and washing. It is almost impossible for one person to provide care for all of these needs. Because of these complex problems and needs, many people with Alzheimer’s disease require the type of skilled-nursing care that is impossible for family members and friends to entirely supply. A nursing home is a way of providing the necessary expert care to people with moderate or advanced Alzheimer’s disease.”

For more information about memory-care services and programs at Christian Health, click here.