Once again you have forgotten where you put your car keys, you’re looking for your cell phone while you’re talking on it or you just can’t remember the name of that acquaintance you saw in the grocery store the other day.
You fear the worst and you are not alone. A recent study asked Americans age 60 or older the condition they were most afraid of getting indicated that the number one fear was Alzheimer’s or dementia (35 percent), followed by cancer (23 percent), and stroke (15 percent).
Alzheimer’s is an irreversible and progressive brain disease that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, and leads to cognitive impairment that severely affects daily living. Often the terms Alzheimer’s and dementia are used interchangeably. Although the two are related, they are not the same. Dementia is a general term for the loss of memory that affect daily life. Alzheimer’s is a cause of dementia, with over 70 percent of all dementia cases occurring as a result of Alzheimer’s.
The majority of Alzheimer’s cases occur in people aged 65 years or older.
Slight memory loss is a normal consequence of aging, and people should not be too concerned if they regularly lose their keys or forget the names of people or things. So, how do you know when forgetfulness is part of the normal aging process and when it could be a symptom of Alzheimer’s?
There are 10 warning signs and symptoms generally listed by Alz.org.
- MEMORY LOSS THAT DISRUPTS DAILY LIFE
One of the most common signs of Alzheimer’s is memory loss, especially forgetting recently learned information. Others include forgetting important dates or events; asking for the same information over and over; increasingly relying on others for reminders for things they used to handle on their own.
An example of a typical age-related change? Sometimes forgetting names or appointments, but eventually remembering them even if it’s at 3 AM.
- CHALLENGES IN PLANNING OR SOLVING PROBLEMS
Some people may experience changes in their ability to develop and follow a plan or work with numbers. They may have trouble following a familiar recipe or keeping track of monthly bills. They may have difficulty concentrating and take much longer to do things than they did before.
What’s a typical age-related change? Making occasional errors when balancing a checkbook.
- DIFFICULTY COMPLETING FAMILIAR TASKS
People with Alzheimer’s often find it hard to complete daily tasks; such as, driving to a familiar location, paying bills or remembering the rules of a favorite game.
What’s a typical age-related change? Occasionally needing help to record a television show or missing your regular exit when your mind is somewhere else.
- CONFUSION WITH TIME OR PLACE
People with Alzheimer’s tend to lose track of dates, seasons and even passage of time. They may have trouble understanding something if it is not happening immediately. Sometimes they may forget where they are or how they got there.
What’s a typical age-related change? Getting confused about the day of the week but figuring it out.
- TROUBLE UNDERSTANDING VISUAL IMAGES AND SPATIAL RELATIONSHIPS
In some cases, vision problems can be a sign of Alzheimer’s. The person may experience difficulty reading and determining color or contrast. They may also have trouble judging distances in driving.
What’s a typical age-related change? Vision changes related to cataracts.
- NEW PROBLEMS WITH WORDS IN SPEAKING OR WRITING
People with Alzheimer’s often have trouble following a conversation. They may stop in the middle of a sentence and have no idea how to continue. They may also repeat themselves and struggle with vocabulary. They have problems finding the right word or call things by the wrong name.
What’s a typical age-related change? Sometimes having trouble finding the right word or forgetting the name of something.
- MISPLACING THINGS AND LOSING THE ABILITY TO RETRACE STEPS
A person with Alzheimer’s disease may put things in unusual places and be unable to go back over their steps to find them again. It is common to accuse others of stealing their possessions. This may become more frequent over time.
What’s a typical age-related change? Misplacing things from time to time and having to retrace steps to find them.
- DECREASED OR POOR JUDGMENT
People with Alzheimer’s may begin to show a lack of judgment or decision-making. When dealing with money, they may give large amounts to telemarketers, non-profits, church, etc. Further, you may notice a decrease in their person grooming, hygiene and cleanliness.
What’s a typical age-related change? Making a bad decision once in a while.
- WITHDRAWAL FROM SOCIAL ACTIVITIES
A person with Alzheimer’s may start to remove themselves from family events, social activities, work, hobbies or sports. They often have trouble keeping up with a favorite sports team or remembering how to complete a favorite hobby. They may avoid being social because of the changes they are experiencing.
What’s a typical age-related change? Occasionally feeling weary of work, family and social obligations.
10.CHANGES IN MOOD AND PERSONALITY
It is common for the personality of people with Alzheimer’s to change. They can become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious. They may be easily upset at home, at work, with friends or in places where they used to be comfortable.
What’s a typical age-related change? Developing a specific way of doing things and becoming irritable when the routine is disrupted.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ALZHEIMER’S AND TYPICAL AGE-RELATED CHANGES?
|Signs of Alzheimer’s/Dementia||Typical age-related changes|
|Poor judgment and decision-making||Making a bad decision once in a while|
|Inability to manage a budget||Missing a monthly payment|
|Losing track of the date or the season||Forgetting what day it is but remembering it later|
|Difficulty having a conversation||Sometimes forgetting which word to use|
|Misplacing things and being unable to retrace your steps||Losing things from time to time|
WHAT TO DO IF YOU NOTICE THESE SIGNS
If you notice any of these warning signs of Alzheimer’s in yourself or someone you know, don’t ignore them. Early detection is key to get the maximum benefit from available treatments. You can explore treatments that may provide some relief of symptoms and help you maintain a level of independence longer.
Need help? Give us a call, we are happy to answer questions.