Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia. It is a progressive and irreversible disease that affects memory, cognitive skills, and even the ability to carry out everyday tasks. The fear that a loved one’s dementia may be caused by Alzheimer’s can be overwhelming, and the diagnosis can be devastating. Understanding more about this disease can help you and your loved one in figuring out how to cope.
What Are the Symptoms of Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s has some readily recognizable symptoms that characterize this progressive disease. While isolated incidents are common among all people as they age, the following are some of the symptoms that those with Alzheimer’s may exhibit early on and with increasing frequency as the disease progresses.
At first, someone with Alzheimer’s disease may notice only mild confusion. Losing track of dates, seasons, or the passage of time are common early symptoms. Having trouble understanding something that is not happening immediately is also possible. Patients often get lost easily and may forget where they are or be uncertain of how they got there in the first place.
- Memory Problems
In its early stages, memory problems may be very mild, making them hard to differentiate from normal age-related memory concerns such as occasionally forgetting names or appointments. One of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, however, is memory loss that involves forgetting information that has been recently learned or the names of everyday objects or people. Along with regularly forgetting important dates or events, asking for the same information over and over, and needing to use reminder notes, other people, or electronic devices for things they used to remember easily on their own, this difficulty remember new information is a key indication of Alzheimer’s.
- Misplacing Things
Another common aspect of the memory problems experienced by those suffering from Alzheimer’s is frequently or regularly misplacing things, often putting them in illogical places like milk in the microwave or bread in a dresser drawer. People tend to have trouble retracing their steps to find these items, and they may even accuse people of stealing them. This generally occurs more frequently over time.
- Reasoning & Problem Solving
While it’s normal to occasionally have difficulty balancing a checkbook, people with Alzheimer’s may have problems working with numbers in general or developing and following plans – both long and short term. For example, following a familiar recipe or keeping track of their monthly bills may become challenging, and they may have trouble concentrating or multitasking.
- Difficulty Completing Basic Tasks
Everyone sometimes needs help with a new appliance or setting up recording devices, but you may find a person with Alzheimer’s taking much longer to accomplish simple, routine tasks than they used to. They may find it hard to drive to a familiar location, manage a budget, or complete the steps for a regular activity such as washing laundry. Eventually, those with Alzheimer’s may forget how to perform even basic tasks like bathing and dressing.
- Problems Understanding Spatial Relationships and Visual Images
Almost everyone experiences some age-related vision problems, but there are some vision problems that may be a symptom of Alzheimer’s. Some Alzheimer’s sufferers experience difficulty reading, judging distances, and determining colors or recognizing contrast. They may have particular problems with driving.
- Decreased Judgement or Poor Decision-Making
We all make a poor decision once in a while, but someone with Alzheimer’s may experience dramatic changes in their judgment or decision-making abilities. For example, they may make impractical decisions about money, giving away large amounts or constantly buying things they don’t need – which may forget purchasing. They often pay less attention to personal grooming or stop taking time to keep themselves clean. Rash or abnormal behavior is often a sign of Alzheimer’s.
- Mood & Personality Changes
Stress impacts everyone, and some people are simply moody by nature, but someone with Alzheimer’s may experience intense changes in their mood or personality. For example, they may become suddenly depressed, suspicious for no reason, unusually anxious, or even fearful. They are often easily upset, particularly in places that they are unfamiliar with or with people they don’t know.
- Stopping Social Activities or Avoiding Work
It is not unusual for a person with Alzheimer’s to stop participating in hobbies, social activities, sports, or work projects. This may be because they find it hard to keep track of a favorite team or remembering the steps for their favorite hobby. They may also avoid social activities or work challenges because they realize that they are no longer on top of their game.
- Problems with Words
Everyone has experienced that “tip of the tongue” sensation when you just can’t remember the right word. People with Alzheimer’s, however, often have frequent trouble with both speaking and writing, as well as simply following or joining in a conversation. They may stop in the midst of a sentence or thought with no idea of how to finish, and they often repeat themselves. They are likely to struggle with vocabulary, call things by the wrong name, or find themselves constantly searching for the right word.
Early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s leads to the best prognosis for treatment, even though there is no actual cure yet. The sooner you recognize the common symptoms of this disease and seek a diagnosis, the sooner you can start dealing with the many challenges of caretaking.
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, be sure to reach out for support services to help you through this difficult time. For more information about care services, the fully-trained, helpful team at Specialty Care Services is here.