If you begin to suspect that your loved one is exhibiting signs of Alzheimer’s disease, you shouldn’t necessarily start to panic. Forgetfulness is a common occurrence among seniors – it’s normal to misplace keys or forget the name of that new television show that was on last week. These are often referred to as “senior moments.”
It’s when memory loss starts to disrupt everyday life or worsens dramatically, affecting the ability to function at home or at work, that you should seek help for your loved one. The earlier you seek medical attention, the better chance they’ll have of getting the best care and improving their quality of life.
Age, family history and genetics are the primary risk factors for Alzheimer’s, but issues like high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes and high cholesterol can also increase the risk. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, staying connected with friends and family, and exercising both physically and mentally can help decrease the risk. There’s also the rare condition of early-onset Alzheimer’s, which generally affects patients whose parents or grandparents developed Alzheimer’s at an early age.
The Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease
1) Memory Loss – It’s common to experience forgetfulness as we age. But an Alzheimer’s patient may not just misplace their keys, but store them somewhere odd like the refrigerator or dishwasher. They may be unable to go back and retrace their steps to find a lost item. They might repeat themselves frequently or even forget entire conversations.
2) Difficulty performing familiar tasks – People with Alzheimer’s may begin to have trouble completing once routine activities, like cooking a meal or driving to a familiar location. Perhaps your loved one suddenly can’t remember the rules to a favorite card game they’ve been playing for years.
3) Confusion with time and/or place – People with Alzheimer’s may lose track of what day or even what season of the year it is. The disease can disrupt brain activity so much that familiar surroundings seem strange, which can lead to a person forgetting where they are or how they got there.
4) Issues with speaking or writing – Those with Alzheimer’s may start to display problems with joining a conversation or expressing their thoughts successfully. They may struggle with vocabulary and have trouble finding the words to identify common objects, or even start calling things by the wrong name.
5) Personality or mood changes – The brain changes that occur with Alzheimer’s can alter someone’s entire personality. They may suddenly experience mood swings or become depressed, anxious or fearful. They can become delusional; certain things are being stolen from their home. Their sleeping habits can change and they may start to wander at random times or become irritable and aggressive.
These are just a few of the early warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease. If you notice any of them in your loved one, don’t’ ignore them. Early detection will help them get the maximum benefit from the treatments available, which can result in relief of symptoms. It will also help them maintain their independence for as long as possible.