Alzheimer’s disease is a thief of people’s lives. The reality is that the patient will forget not only the simplest things such as; how to eat or how to dress themselves, but the patient will also lose the most cherished memories of loved ones and even get to the point of not recognizing his or her own family. This is entirely unforgivable. There needs to be more research on how to prevent and destroy this disease.
The best defense is a great offense. Awareness is key to slowing the progression of this horrible disease. Here are the 10 most common warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease according to Alzheimer’s Association. (alz.org)
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life. While it is typical to forget things like why you walked into a room, or to return a phone call, it is also typical to remember them at a later time. Alzheimer’s patients do not have that recall. They are forgetful in several ways, for example perhaps not remembering what someone just told them, or not remembering when they last ate. The key is the lack of recall for the patient. The patient may take far too long to complete tasks or even rely on others to get things done that he or she would normally do in his or her everyday life.
- Challenges in planning or solving problems. It is normal for people to make errors in simple tasks such as balancing the checkbook, but it is far more complex for the Alzheimer’s patient. The disease makes it so that the patient has such problems concentrating, that the simplest task that is familiar to the patient is almost impossible.
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure. We all have had times that we find it difficult to use some electronics or figure out how to put something together. That is why we call specialists. What is not normal, however, is having trouble driving to your local store that you have frequented for several decades, or keeping track of daily tasks at work that you have done for years. This is what the average Alzheimer’s patient has to deal with on a daily basis and it only progressively gets worse.
- Confusion with time or place. Have you ever said to a friend or family member, “What day is this?” This is normal especially with all the stress of our modern day lives, but we do figure out what day it is within a few seconds. The Alzheimer’s patient completely loses track of what day or even what year it is. This progresses with time. At first, after you tell the person what day it is, they will remember, but then they will forget all over again.
- Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships. The patient experiences visual changes and has difficulty reading, judging distance or determining color or contrast. They may not even recognize themselves in pictures. It is normal as we get older to have visual changes, but most often it is related to cataracts or other physical problems.
- New problems with words in speaking or writing. Though people sometimes experience trouble finding just the right words to express how they feel, it is not normal to be unable to finish a conversation due to the inability to say what is on your mind. The patient may stop in the middle of a conversation and get frustrated and just give up.
- Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps. How many times have you lost the keys to your car or put down a tool and can’t find it right away? This is normal behavior. What is not normal is losing things that you bring into the house and not being able to find them no matter how long you spend looking for the item. It is very common for the Alzheimer’s patient to begin to blame others for the items being lost.
- Decreased or poor judgment. Let’s be honest. We have all made our share of bad decisions. Maybe we counted on money making it to the bank before the check we wrote would hit. That rarely works in our favor. The Alzheimer’s patient uses poor decision making as a regular routine. Some patients have been known to give away all of their money to strangers, or walk across a street while cars are coming directly at them. This will progress with the disease.
- Withdrawal from work or social activities. We all withdrawal from society from time to time. With this disease, the patient will become so anxious and fearful, that they will stop interacting with people that they normally would have fun with. The patient can become upset and depressed easily.
- Changes in mood and personality. When people are thrown out of their comfort zone, they may become irritable or upset. With an Alzheimer’s patient, anything may set them off. They can become suspicious of others and accuse people of wanting to do wrong by them. This makes the patient more withdrawn from society. They like things simple and easy. Any changes can upset them to the point of despair or anger.
If you have a friend or family member that is experiencing these signs, see your doctor immediately. Be open and honest with the doctor. There are treatments available that are thought to slow the progression of the disease. Good luck and God bless.
Alzheimer’s Association Helpline 1-800-272-3900