Alzheimer’s disease is a terrifying condition, with more diagnosed cases every day due to the aging Baby Boomer population. Alzheimer’s is a brain condition that causes a slow decline in reasoning, thinking, and memory skills. It’s terrifying because the patient and loved ones have time to realize what’s happening. At this time, there are no cures for Alzheimer’s, but new treatments are constantly being developed.
While some changes in thinking, mood, or memory are normal parts of aging, others are indicators of the early stages of Alzheimer’s. This list of 10 Alzheimer’s symptoms, along with normal changes, will help you know when you should schedule a visit with your doctor or when you’re just getting older.
Memory loss that disrupts daily life. This is probably the most commonly known of all the signs of Alzheimer’s. Patients remember things from years ago, especially their childhood, but struggle to remember recent events. Other signs include forgetting important dates and events, asking people to repeat the same information over and over, and needing to rely on memory assists like notes or other people to do tasks they used to do on their own. It’s perfectly normal to forget names, events, or the grocery store list, and remember them later.
Planning and problem-solving. Some people in various Alzheimer’s stages report problems with following plans or working with numbers. A cook may have problems following a favorite recipe or the person who kept the budget for years may start paying bills late. Concentration may be difficult and it may take longer to do simple tasks. Making mistakes balancing the checkbook is still normal.
Forgetting how to do familiar tasks at home or work, or forgetting how to do hobbies. People with Alzheimer’s may forget how to drive to the store or how to perform job duties. A knitter may forget how to do newer stitches, but may still remember ones taught by her grandmother. Having trouble getting the latest Windows update to work, or figuring out your smartphone is NOT a sign of Alzheimer’s.
Confusion about times and places. Alzheimer’s patients become confused about dates, seasons, and even passing time. They don’t comprehend that the young man in the room is their grandson, not their younger brother. They may forget how they got to a location and become agitated or confused. Losing track of what day of the week it is, while annoying, is perfectly normal.
Difficulties processing visual images and spatial relationships. Some Alzheimer’s patients have difficulties with their vision. They may have trouble judging distances, reading, or determining color, all of which make driving dangerous. Other vision changes, such as the need to wear glasses, are perfectly normal. If you have any vision changes, see an eye specialist for a full checkup. Issues like cataracts can be treated easily if caught early.
Problems with speaking or writing. This can be an early indicator of Alzheimer’s disease. People may have trouble following or joining conversations. Often they repeat stories over and over and don’t realize they’re doing it. They may struggle with vocabulary and have trouble finding the right words, or use the wrong words to describe things. A stove might be called a “hot cooker”. Occasionally struggling to find the right word, especially in writing, is a normal part of life and nothing to worry about.
Losing things and not being able to retrace your steps. Everyone misplaces things, but people with Alzheimer’s lose things in completely out of the ordinary places and are unable to retrace their steps to find them. The cable remote might be in the glove box of the car, and they can’t tell you how it got there. They may get angry and accuse others of stealing the missing items from them. This will occur more and more often as the disease progresses. Everyone misplaces phones, keys, and other items but retracing your steps usually leads to them.
Poor judgment. As Alzheimer’s patients lose their mental focus, their decision making skills suffer. They may stop paying attention to personal grooming, like bathing and wearing clean clothes. Even worse, they’re easy prey to phone con artists who think nothing of taking advantage of them and draining their bank accounts. Everyone makes a bad decision now and then, but frequent odd behavior can be a sign of trouble.
Withdrawing from work or social activities. A person with Alzheimer’s may withdraw from their usual way of life. This could be due to embarrassment over not being able to carry out duties and hobbies the way they used to, or fear of others finding out about the diagnosis. They feel if they can’t do it the way they used to, they should just hide away. Fear and depression over the diagnosis can lead to withdrawal from life and work.
Changes in mood and personality. People in all of Alzheimer’s stages experience a wide variety of emotions, often changing them quickly. They may become depressed, anxious, suspicious, or easily angered. They may lash out at any changes to their routine at home or at work. Becoming more set in your ways and cranky when a routine is disrupted is just a normal part of growing older.
If you are concerned that a loved one is showing signs of Alzheimer’s disease, you’re not alone. Nearly 10% of Americans 65 and over are affected by one form of dementia or another. Coping with the diagnosis is frightening, but leaving a loved one to live alone is more frightening. Assisting Hands Home Care provides high-quality dementia and Alzheimer’s care to help families give their loved ones the care they need. These memory care services help them stay in their own homes as long as possible, to help them feel secure.