Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative brain disease and the most common form of dementia. Dementia is not a specific disease. It’s an overall term that describes a group of symptoms. Alzheimer’s is a brain disease that causes a slow decline in memory, thinking and reasoning skills.
The National Alzheimer’s Association reports there are 10 common signs that you should be aware of when taking care of an elderly loved one.
- Memory Loss that Disrupts Daily Life
One of the most common signs of Alzheimer’s disease, especially in the early stage, is forgetting recently learned information. Others include forgetting important dates or events, asking for the same questions over and over, and increasingly needing to rely on memory aids (e.g., reminder notes or electronic devices) or family members for things they used to handle on their own. Normal age related change is forgetting names or appointments times but remembering them later.
- Challenges in Planning or Solving Problems
Some people living with dementia may experience changes in their ability to develop and follow a plan or work with numbers. They may have trouble following a familiar recipe or keeping track of monthly bills. They may have difficulty concentrating and take much longer to do things than they did before. Making occasional mistakes with household bills or finances is normal and should not be a cause for alarm.
- Difficulty Completing Familiar Tasks
People with Alzheimer’s often find it hard to complete daily tasks. Sometimes they may have trouble driving to a familiar location, organizing a grocery list or remembering the rules of a favorite game.
Older family members often have difficulty with managing technology like using a smart phone or starting the microwave. Difficulty with these types of tasks are not considered to be a sign.
- Confusion With Time or Place
People living with Alzheimer’s can lose track of dates, seasons and the passage of time. They may have trouble understanding something if it is not happening immediately. Sometimes they may forget where they are or how they got there. Forgetting or not knowing the day of the week but remembering it again or being able to figure out what day it is not a sign.
- Trouble Understanding Visual Images and Spatial Relationships
For some people, having vision problems is a sign of Alzheimer’s. This may lead to difficulty with balance or trouble reading. They may also have problems judging distance and determining color or contrast, causing issues with driving. Cataracts are a normal ailment in again that affect vision and are not linked to Alzheimer’s.
- New Problems with Words in Speaking or Writing
People living with Alzheimer’s may have trouble following or joining a conversation. They may stop in the middle of a conversation and have no idea how to continue or they may repeat themselves. They may struggle with vocabulary, have trouble naming a familiar object or use the wrong name (e.g., calling a “watch” a “hand-clock”).
- Misplacing Things and Losing the Ability to Retrace Steps
A person living with Alzheimer’s disease may put things in unusual places. They may lose things and be unable to go back over their steps to find them again. He or she may accuse others of stealing, especially as the disease progresses. Misplaced items with the ability to re-trace steps to find them is normal.
- Decreased or Poor Judgment
Individuals may experience changes in judgment or decision-making. For example, they may use poor judgment when dealing with money or pay less attention to grooming or keeping themselves clean.
- Withdrawal From Work or Social Activities
A person living with Alzheimer’s disease may experience changes in the ability to hold or follow a conversation. As a result, he or she may withdraw from hobbies, social activities or other engagements. They may have trouble keeping up with a favorite team or activity.
- Changes in Mood and Personality
Individuals living with Alzheimer’s may experience mood and personality changes. They can become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious. They may be easily upset at home, with friends or when out of their comfort zone.
It is normal for elderly to develop a certain set of routines or doing things in a specific way and becoming irritable if these are disrupted.