Alzheimer’s disease is a fast growing health threat in the United States. It was estimated that in 2015 that approximately 5.3 million Americans were suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Two thirds of the cases reported were to be women. The number of people affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia are said to be increasing each year. By 2025, the number of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease is said to increase to nearly 7.2 million people who are 65 or older. As this growing health threat continues to affect many people from many walks of life, let us look into the 12 warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease.
12. Memory loss
Memory loss is a well known sign of Alzheimer’s disease. This will include a wide array of issues like forgetting recently learned information, dates, events etc. One tends to also ask the same questions over and over again which leads him or her to rely on memory aids that could take the form of reminder notes or electronic devices. The person suffering from Alzheimer’s may also rely on family members for simple things they were able to take care of on their own, prior to Alzheimer’s.
In the early stages, the memory loss may be mild and they may face frustration over the changes that are taking place. During the later stages, dementia becomes very severe in which the person affected may forget family members and relationships. They may also forget the use of common items like pens and knives.
11. Difficulty in planning or solving problems
Alzheimer’s patients may also face challenges in their ability to work with numbers and in conforming to a plan. These may include things like trying to follow a recipe or keeping up to date with bills. Having difficulties concentrating can affect them severely and they may find it hard to do things that they could easily complete prior to the onset of Alzheimer’s like solving a simple math problems. They may take more time to finish these tasks.
10. Difficulty completing familiar tasks
A common warning sign of Alzheimer’s include the challenges that one may face in trying to complete day to day activities. They may have traveled frequently to a a common destination before (such as the local grocery store), but now they might be having difficulties finding these locations or driving to one of them. Remembering rules, be it rules of a game they used to play often or otherwise, cooking a simple meal; becomes quite challenging due to the disease condition.
9. Losing track of time
Alzheimer’s sufferers may have a tendency to forget where they are at or how they got there in the first place. They lose track of dates and time and have trouble understanding things that aren’t occurring immediately.
8. Trouble with visual images and spatial relationships
People with Alzheimer’s often develop vision problems. In turn, this would affect their ability to read, determine color and any patterns. Even judging distance becomes an issue which causes problems with driving.
7. Communication problems
Some people suffering from Alzheimer’s have trouble keeping up with a conversation and as a result they may repeat themselves several times. They may stop during an engaging conversation and not know how to take it from there. Vocabulary struggles are another noticeable factor where one faces challenges trying to remember the right word to use in common scenarios. They may end up calling objects by wrong names. As the disease advances, the sufferer’s language use becomes limited to just a few phrases and in some extreme cases they may lose the ability of speech.
6. Misplacing things
An Alzheimer’s sufferer may misplace things and put them in strange places. They tend to lose things easily and find it difficult to retrace their steps to find the lost item. As a result, one may accuse others of stealing or hiding his or her belongings. This stage occurs more frequently as the disease progresses.
5. Poor judgment
You may notice impaired judgement or poor decision making by the Alzheimer’s patient which happens more often than what is commonly deemed acceptable. For instance, they may have problems when dealing with money where one can end up giving large sums of money than what they owe. They may also pay less attention to cleanliness and grooming and dress inappropriately for the weather. One may forget to pay for the items purchased at a shop. He or she may appear to be insensitive and use careless language as a result of losing control of their impulses.
4. Withdrawal from work or social activities
Social withdrawal is another sign that can be commonly seen in Alzheimer’s patients. The person starts to withdraw from social activities, social calls, sports, hobbies and so forth. One may have problems keeping up with their favorite sports teams or a hobbies. This is mainly due to the immense stress they have to deal with as the disease progresses. Their inability to perform simple tasks will make them feel inadequate or even ashamed; therefore, they withdraw from social activities in order to save themselves from any embarrassment. This can also indicate depression which is a common issue among Alzheimer’s sufferers.
3. Mood swings and changes in personality traits
There will be a considerable change in mood and personality traits of people with Alzheimer’s. They can get distressed easily at home, work or when hanging out with friends or in places they are not used to. They easily become confused, suspicious, apprehensive ,afraid or anxious; these are all symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
2. Delusions and paranoia
People suffering from Alzheimer’s develop paranoia. They may feel that someone intends to hurt them, or that someone has stolen from them. They may feel that they are being followed as well. Moreover, episodes of hallucinations and delusions begin to occur. They may sense things that are not present. Coupled with their inability to communicate and their frequent mood swings will lead to verbal or physical aggression.
1. Sleeping difficulty
Towards the end of the day, he or she may generally become overwhelmed by their symptoms. This results in sleeping difficulties. A symptom known as ‘sundowning’ maybe be apparent in these sufferers where he or she experiences increased agitation, uncertainty and hyperactivity. These symptoms generally begin in the late afternoon and starts increasing throughout the evening. Sundowning worsens as the disease progresses. Dementia disrupts the persons day to day routine which causes a significant disturbance in their sleep cycle. The Alzheimer’s sufferer is very irritable at this point, due to his or her inability to process information and communicate which results in exhaustion.
During the early stages, the sufferer will be able live or work unaccompanied. The person will still be able to drive, work and take part in activities. However, as the disease progresses his or her ability to tackle day to day activities will slowly diminish.
If a family member or a friend suffers from Alzheimer’s, you have an important role to play in providing companionship and support, and help plan for the future. Be flexible and adjust to his or her needs that will begin to change day by day. Allow the person to do as much as possible on their own with the least amount of assistance. Create a safe environment as the risk of falls and injuries increase as the disease advances. Patience and support from people around the person can help him or her face the challenges and frustrations that will come their way.