Alzheimer's disease has become a national crisis in the United States as our base population ages. It is imperative that caregivers and family members be aware of the signs of an elderly person’s decreasing ability to function and think cognitively.
In 2013, it is estimated that 5.2 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer's disease. Most cases occur after a person reaches the age of 60 and the affects can range from mild to severe. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia among the elderly and it remains irreversible. The disease affects the memory and thinking skills and can influence a person’s ability to perform even the simplest of tasks. It is an insidious and destructive progressive ailment.
There are several warning signs of Alzheimer’s that families and care givers should be aware of as loved ones and patient’s age. The progression of symptoms can lead to the consideration of placing a patient is an assisted living facility where they can receive the best care.
One of the most common early signs of Alzheimer’s is memory loss. You may see an increased dependency on notes and reminders. Important dates may become confused and appointments forgotten. The patient may ask repeatedly for the same information and may need more help keeping track of day-to-day matters.
Changes in Personality or Mood
Another warning sign families become aware of is a change in their loved one’s mood. The affected family member may become more irritable and defensive because of the onset of symptoms. They may balk at any changes in their routine and they may also become fearful, anxious and suspicious. While the cognitive mind declines it can be very frightening and confusing which requires careful monitoring that is provided through dementia care provided by professionals. They may become withdrawn and no longer choose to participate in activities that they enjoy.
Confusion with Time and Place
Sometimes Alzheimer’s patients have trouble with dates or even where they are or how they got there. There may not be a clear understanding of the passage of time. When this becomes a serious risk to the patient’s well-being it is often necessary to have them monitored closely. This can be a very difficult responsibility for some families and providing a carefully chosen assisted living facility to meet their increasing needs may be the necessary.
Decreased Ability to Solve Problems and Poor Judgment
As the disease progresses Alzheimer’s patients often exhibit difficulty solving problems and thinking cognitively. They also may make poor decisions and should be monitored to make sure that they are not taken advantage of.
Word Replacement or Speech Difficulty
There are times during a conversation with an Alzheimer’s patient that they may replace words with others that are out of context. For example, they may be asking if you read a “book” but instead use a word that does not make sense such as “car.”
Changes in Walking
At the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Vancouver, Canadian researchers introduced evidence that may show a link between a person’s gait and the onset of Alzheimer’s. This is the first connection that has been made between a physical symptom and Alzheimer’s. The study suggests that changes in velocity, lower cadence and length of stride can indicate a decline in mental ability. The act of walking requires the participation of several areas of the brain and if any one area is diminished it reflect in a change in a person’s gait. This is an interesting breakthrough in diagnostics for this disease as it will not require expensive technology to determine if there is an ongoing problem.
Sadly, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s. However, there are medications and therapies that can sometimes slow the progression of the disease. To care for an elderly Alzheimer’s patient requires patience, understanding and support from caregivers and family members alike. There are many agencies that offer help with resources and information to help make the hard decisions that arise from such a debilitating disease. There may come a point where a family can no longer care for their loved one and should seek information from doctors, friends and support agencies to help make a decision on placement in a professional assisted living setting. This choice can offer the families peace of mind knowing that their family member is fed, bathed and cared for properly by understanding health professionals.