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Recognizing Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease

Have you ever wondered where did I put my car keys?  As people age, they may also wonder if this means that they have Alzheimer’s disease. Simply misplacing your keys is not a reason to panic.

First, let’s look at the definition.  Alzheimer’s is a brain disease that causes malfunction and death of nerve cells creating a slow decline in memory, think and reasoning skills.

Here are a few statistics that can help us put the disease into perspective.

  • More than 5.8 million Americans are currently affected
  • Approximately 3.2 million are women
  • 6th leading cause of death in the United States
  • 1 in 3 seniors die with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease or another form of dementia
  • Nearly 10 million new dementia cases every
  • Globally, 50 million people are affected worldwide
  • This number is expected to triple by 2050

There are 10 warning signs that are good for everyone to be aware of, particularly caregivers. (The examples listed with each topic are just a few of the more pronounced signs that you may easily observe.)

  • Memory Loss that disrupts daily life. Forgetting recently learned information
  • Challenges in planning or solving problems. Forgetting to pay bills or manage your checkbook
  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks. Difficulty writing a grocery list
  • Confusion with time or place. Loosing track of the seasons and the passage of time. They may have trouble understanding that something didn’t happen immediately
  • Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships. Difficulty reading or balance issues
  • New problems with words in speaking or writing. They may have difficulty following or joining a conversation. They may repeat themselves and have trouble finding the appropriate words.
  • Misplacing items and inability to retrace steps. They may lose items and be unable to figure out where they were to retrace their steps. They may accuse people of stealing in the later stages of the disease.
  • Decreased or poor judgement. Poor judgement when dealing with money. Paying less attention to grooming.
  • Withdrawal from work or social activities. Possibly due to inability to follow the conversation or find the words they are trying to say.
  • Changes in mood and personality. Examples might be confusion, suspiciousness, depression, fearfulness and anxiousness

With most long-term diseases, there are timeframes that occur at different stages (presentations) of the disease. These are some easy to recognize signs that generally accompany the different presentations.

First Presentations

  • Memory Loss/Forgetfulness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Personality changes
  • Verbal difficulty
  • Finding the correct words
  • Decline in grooming
  • Poor judgement

Second Presentations

  • Poor short-term memory
  • Mood swings
  • Time confusion
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Change in eating habits
  • Socially dependent on family/withdrawn
  • Restless

End Presentations

  • Constant supervision
  • Short and long-term memory are severely impaired
  • Very few words left in vocabulary
  • No recognition of family, caregivers and their selves
  • Bowel and bladder incontinence
  • Chewing and swallowing is impaired
  • Motor skills are lost, difficulty and lock of coordinated motions

Over the next few months, we will be adding posts to our blog regarding Alzheimer’s and Dementia. We will offer tips for a caregiver whose loved one is still living at home.  We will also provide tips regarding bringing additional care into the home as well as thoughts on finding an appropriate memory care facility for your loved ones when that time comes.