Are you worried that a family member is experiencing the beginning symptoms of Alzheimer's? As people age and begin to a decrease in cognitive abilities, it is natural to ask, "is this normal or is it dementia?"
The Alzheimer's Association outlines ten early symptoms of Alzheimer's to watch for as family members age.
Memory Loss Disrupts Daily Life
Among all the commonly noticed early symptoms, drastic changes in short-term memory is primary. Examples include having to ask the same question multiple times and increased reliance on handwritten notes, calendars, or to-do lists for everyday tasks and important dates.
No matter the age, everyone forgets where he or she placed their keys from time to time, but with a little backtracking, the keys can usually be found. Being able to retrace steps and find lost items is a normal sign of aging. Those with Alzheimer's have trouble remembering not only where they left their keys, but which rooms they visited since setting them down.
Challenges in Problem-Solving and Developing Action Plans
The Alzheimer's Association notes that those with early stages of Alzheimer's may have trouble balancing a checkbook, understanding numbers or following and adjusting recipes in the kitchen. Normal aging may cause errors in halving the volumes in a recipe, but doesn't prevent people from correcting those errors or understanding that a mistake may have contributed to a ruined dinner. People experiencing Alzheimer's are not able to troubleshoot the cause of an unbalanced checkbook or a ruined meal.
Difficulty with Daily Tasks
Everyone has their daily routine - whether it includes exercising, working, a drive to the store, or cooking. When cognitive decline interrupts these everyday tasks that they are used to completing many times, it is time to speak to a doctor. Normal aging may include needing to refer to instructions several times when completing a task for the first several times, or needing to ask directions to a store that they have not been to in six months.
Confusion with Time or Place
Among the most unsettling symptoms of Alzheimer's is a person's inability to understand where they are. A family member may, out of the blue, ask when they are going home when they are sitting in their kitchen. They may begin putting on their coat, ready to go to work, when it is close to bedtime. It is also possible that people experiencing early symptoms will refer to parents or other long-gone people as if they are still part of their everyday lives.
On the other hand, being temporarily confused about what day of the week it is or today's date is associated with natural aging.
Difficulty with Spatial Relationships and Visual Images
As people age, their eyes undergo physical changes. It is common to develop cataracts or require special glasses for vision. It is good practice to visit an eye doctor once a year to address any physical issues affecting vision.
However, those experiencing the cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer's will often have trouble determining distance or colors. This is because the signals from the eyes are no longer correctly translated by the brain. This condition affects a person's mobility and ability to operate a vehicle.
Difficulty with Speech or Writing
From time to time, the struggle to find the right word to describe a situation or while talking is not uncommon. Everyone experiences having a word 'right on the tip of their tongue' that they remember later on, especially if it is one outside of their daily vocabulary.
However, for people experiencing dementia, simple words are often unattainable. Take the word wristwatch, for example; they may call it a 'hand-clock'.
Where it is normal for minds to wander in conversation, those with dementia will genuinely struggle to keep up, sometimes forgetting the topic of the discussion, or repeating themselves. These situations can be embarrassing for the individuals and cause them to become withdrawn. It is incredibly important for people to interact as part of an active lifestyle, so make an extra effort to be patient and compassionate when speaking with them.
Lost and Misplaced Items
Often, people living with Alzheimer's will leave personal items in odd places, like a wallet set in the refrigerator. Or, maybe they are certain someone has stolen their jacket, but later discovered it was left outside on the porch. As discussed, with Alzheimer's comes the inability to locate lost items which can lead to frustration and agitation. It is important to work with a family member gently and encourage them by helping them locate their lost items.
Loss of Judgment
While poor decisions are not only something aging adults experience, it can become more prevalent as time passes. Those experiencing Alzheimer's may begin to make uncharacteristically bad decisions.
Maybe a family member made an enormous donation to an illegitimate charity, fell for a telemarketing scam, or put aluminum in the microwave. Seniors who live independently often hesitate to ask for advice in many scenarios.
Becoming Withdrawn and Depressed
Because of struggles with speech and word processing, seniors living with Alzheimer's may become withdrawn and depressed. If a family member's mood drastically changes or they exhibit a lack of enthusiasm for joining in on social activities or their favorite hobbies, don't chalk it up to normal aging. Their behavior may be a symptom of an underlying health issue, and when combined with other symptoms on the list, could be an indicator of Alzheimer's.
Severe Mood & Personality Changes
As Alzheimer's progresses it affects a person's mood and personality. For example, a typically cantankerous and difficult person can suddenly become sweet and compliant and vice versa.
Often, changes in personality and cognitive ability will happen suddenly and at certain times of the day, such as early evening. An example of this would be Sundowner's Syndrome, which describes people who act out because they cannot regulate the chemical cycles we all experience as our bodies tire and prepare for sleep.
Origin Knows that Whole-Person Wellness Includes Mental Fitness
Proper nutrition, physical activity, and a socially-active lifestyle help promote brain health and may reduce or delay the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. Origin Active Lifestyle Communities supports healthy living from a "whole-person" perspective, encouraging residents to participate in hobbies, crafts, outings, outreach programs and physical wellness activities.
Origin proudly offers ThinkFit™, a program that encourages cognitive health through fun and engaging games and mental exercises tailored to the individual Origin community member.