As a person ages, it is common to notice a decline in cognitive abilities. You may see a decline in your loved one's reasoning ability, memory, processing speed, and even vocabulary. While some cognitive decline comes with aging, abnormal or intense symptoms may be a sign of dementia or Alzheimer's.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive form of dementia that is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States. Currently, someone develops the disease ever 66 seconds, and it affects 5 million Americans. By 2050, that number is expected to rise as high as 16 million Americans living with the disease.
Thinking about a family member developing this disease is a scary and emotional prospect – to help mitigate the stress associated with the ‘unknown,' let's look at the Alzheimer’s Association’s ten warning signs of Alzheimer’s.
Memory Loss That Disrupts Daily Life
If a loved one has memory loss that is preventing them from being successful in daily life – it may be a sign of Alzheimer’s or dementia. This includes asking for the same information repeatedly, relying on reminder notes, or no longer being able to remember how to complete routine tasks (like cooking or starting their car). On the other hand, your loved one may experience normal age-related memory loss, like forgetting things temporarily like names or appointments.
Challenges in Planning or Solving Problems
While your family member may once have been very good at tasks like balancing the budget, diagnosing and repairing an oil leak in their car, or fixing a leaky sink – they may no longer be able to complete these complicated tasks if they are developing dementia. Continued mistakes may be a reason to see a doctor.
Difficulty Completing Familiar Tasks
We all have tasks that we do without thinking – maybe recording a television show, brushing our teeth, and driving to work or visit a friend. Someone developing dementia may become increasingly confused and unable to complete their routine.
Confusion with Time or Place
Dementia often affects a person's short-term memory causing them to lose track of dates and the passage of time. If you have ever met someone living with dementia, they may say things like ‘I want to go home' while sitting in their kitchen. They may be thinking about a past home or a childhood place. On the other hand, losing track of time occasionally is normal with aging – especially for seniors who are retired.
Trouble Understanding Images and Spatial Relationships
If you know someone living with Alzheimer's it is not uncommon for them to ‘shuffle' their feet when walking. This is caused by a communication error between their eyes and brain. Because they have trouble judging distance between objects or even contrast in color, many people become less mobile.
Problems with Speaking or Writing
We have all had a conversation where a word is ‘on the tip of our tongue, ' and once the conversation moves on, we remember the word we were trying to say. However, people developing Alzheimer's may continue to develop problems with their vocabulary that cause them to trail off and not be able to complete a thought. Likewise, they may begin to call things by the wrong name like calling a wristwatch a ‘hand-clock.'
While it is normal for us all to lose things from time to time, usually with a bit of retracing our steps we can locate our missing item. Someone who is developing Alzheimer's may lose their ability to retrace their steps. They may put things in odd places, like their keys in the refrigerator, which makes them harder to find.
Someone experiencing dementia symptoms may have poor judgment in scenarios that may seem obvious to others. For example, they may give large monetary donations to telemarketers, lose interest in personal hygiene, or fail to adhere to cooking safety.
Because it is possible that mobility and speech may become more involved, a person may remove themselves from social engagements – whether they involve hobbies, family time, or work projects. On the other hand, it is okay to experience weariness on occasion and to turn down social engagement.
Changes in Mood and Personality
The last warning sign to look for is changes in a loved one's mood and personality. A person can become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful, and anxious, especially in situations that are outside of their comfort zone.
If you notice someone you love experiencing two or more of the above warning signs, we recommend you speak with a physician about your concerns. Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer's. However, there are treatments, therapies, and medications that may slow its progression and symptoms. Oaks Senior Living supports Alzheimer's awareness and works with our local contacts to help race not only knowledge, but work towards finding a cure. To learn more about what we do to support this cause, please follow us on Facebook and Twitter.