Alzheimer’s disease can be a frightening diagnosis, especially since the disease is not widely understood. Most of us have the shared understanding that Alzheimer’s is an end to normal life, but what isn’t talked about enough is how much an early diagnosis can make living with Alzheimer’s disease easier.
Memory loss that interferes with one’s daily routine can signal Alzheimer’s or another dementia. Alzheimer’s is a brain disease that causes a progressive decline in memory, thinking and reasoning skills.
Recognizing the warning signs can be the difference between letting the disease progress unchecked and taking action to combat its progression.
An individual may experience one or more of the following warning signs and symptoms to indicate Alzheimer’s Disease.
Alzheimer’s disease – 10 warning signs to watch for
The first and most hallmark warning sign for Alzheimer’s disease is memory loss that is so significant that it interrupts the affected person’s daily life.
As we age, it’s normal to forget details here and there, or make small mistakes, but when the memory loss is so drastic that it interferes with a normal day, it should be cause for alarm. For example, it’s normal to forget what time an appointment was and follow up, but it’s not normal to forget over and over again, or forget something that was considered important to us. This is especially prevalent with information that is new to the patient.
People with Alzheimer’s often experience difficulty concentrating. Things that were once basic for them become difficult to finish. This is particularly true for things that have an element of problem solving, such as paying bills, balancing a checkbook or following a recipe. If a person is noticing multiple mistakes, or that basic tasks are taking much longer than they used to, it could be a warning sign of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Difficulty Completing Familiar Tasks
This includes the inability to finish daily tasks such as driving to a familiar location, managing a budget at work, or recalling the rules of a game they play regularly. With typical age-related changes, the individual may need occasional help with, say, recording a TV show or using the settings on a microwave.
Issues with Time and Place
Alzheimer’s disease can cause issues with spatial awareness or with understanding of the passage of time. This could mean that they forget where they are and how they got there. Or it could mean that they don’t understand what season it is or what time of day it is. It could mean that they think it’s a different month than it is, or lose track of things that aren’t happening immediately. This has obvious repercussions, and anyone experiencing this symptom should see a doctor as soon as possible.
Trouble Understanding Visual Images And Spatial Relationships
For some people, vision problems are a sign of Alzheimer’s. They may find it tough to read, judge distance and determine color or contrast, which may cause problems with driving.
While an age-related issue might involve having trouble finding the right word, people with Alzheimer’s might experience confusion while speaking. They might have trouble joining or starting conversations, they might have frequent difficulty finding the right words, and they might repeat themselves or stop talking suddenly or call things by a different name. Speech problems could definitely be a sign of dementia or Alzheimer’s and should be looked into.
Before their diagnosis, Alzheimer’s patients might notice that they’re losing items a lot more often than before. Unlike a healthy person, doing the work of retracing one’s steps would be much more difficult or impossible and they would be left with the frustration of being unable to find what they lost.
Decreased or Poor Judgment
As we age, we all make bad decisions once in a while but those with Alzheimer’s may experience changes in judgment or decision-making, such as being indiscriminate about dealing with money, not paying attention to self-care or personal hygiene.
People experiencing the effects of Alzheimer’s disease often stop doing the things they love or seeing the friends and family they care about, withdrawing socially and losing touch with people. This could be because they don’t remember social events, forget how to complete the tasks associated with their hobbies, and forget the names of and the ways to contact people they know. Their new situation could cause embarrassment and confusion, causing them to withdraw.
Changes in Personality
Perhaps the most obvious and painful changes people experience with Alzheimer’s disease are changes to the person’s personality and mood. With the daily confusion they feel, it’s normal for people with Alzheimer’s disease to become withdrawn, anxious, suspicious, depressed, and fearful. They might become upset easily with the people around them, or if they feel uncomfortable. They might lash out or react much more than they did before. People with Alzheimer’s might also find themselves acting with less impulse control, making poorer decisions, and having trouble with keeping up their hygiene.
If you or someone you love is experiencing the signs of Alzheimer’s disease, it’s of paramount importance that you see a doctor as soon as possible. Any interruption to normal cognitive functions that affect the person’s day-to-day life should be cause for concern. It’s important to learn the differences between what is normal to expect for someone who is aging, like minor issues with memory or ability, versus extreme changes to their ability to take care of themselves.
Early detection can provide relief from symptoms and maintain a level of independence longer.