Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month

Did you know that over fifty million people are living with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia? Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative brain disease and the most common form of dementia. Dementia is not a specific disease, but instead an overall term that describes a group of symptoms. Every year in June and again in September, those organizations that focus on Alzheimer’s and brain diseases come together to raise awareness and funding for research for a cure.

The Early Signs of Alzheimer’s & Dementia

One of the first symptoms and signs of a brain disorder can be memory loss. Alzheimer’s is a brain disease that creates a slow decline in memory, thinking and reasoning skills. These are the ten most common warning signs and symptoms.

  • Memory loss that disrupts daily life. This is one of the most common signs of Alzheimer’s and many other types of dementia. This might include forgetting important dates or events, asking the same questions over and over, and increasingly needing to rely on memory aids like reminder notes, or electronic devices.
    • Typical Age-Related Changes: Often, people are unsure if their memory changes are age related, or a sign of brain disease. Typical age-related changes would be more like sometimes forgetting names or appointments but remembering them later.
  • Challenges with planning and problem solving. Many of those people living with dementia may experience changes in their ability to think of and implement a plan at home, work, or with numbers. This does affect concentration, so following things like recipes or tracking bills may become difficult.
    • Typical Age-Related Changes: Making occasional errors managing finances and household bills.
  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks. Those suffering from Alzheimer’s find it hard to complete daily tasks. Sometimes they may forget where things are placed around the house, how to write the grocery list, or have trouble remembering the rules or how to play their favorite card game.
    • Typical Age-Related Changes: Occasionally needing assistance to use the microwave or reminders on how to record a television show.
  • Confusion with time and places. Those living with Alzheimer’s can lose track of the days, seasons and spans of time. There may be misunderstandings and have trouble understanding why things are not working as they thought. They may forget where they are or how they got there in the first place.
    • Typical Age-Related Changes: Getting confused about the day of the week but figuring it out later.
  • Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships. For some patients, vision problems can be the first signs of Alzheimer’s or other brain diseases. Vision problems can lead to balance and trouble reading, along with problems judging distance and determining color or contrast, causing issues while driving.
    • Typical Age-related changes: Vision changes related to cataracts.
  • Problems with words in speaking or writing, sudden onset. Those living with Alzheimer’s may have trouble following or joining in a conversation. They may stop in the middle of a thought, have no idea how to continue, repeat what was just said, struggle with vocabulary, or use the wrong terms to describe objects.
    • Typical Age-Related Changes: Sometimes having trouble finding or remembering the right words.
  • Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps. Someone living with Alzheimer’s disease may set something down in an obscure place and forget where that place was. They may accuse others of taking things because they cannot remember where they have put things.
    • Typical Age-related Changes: Misplacing things from time to time but being able to retrace steps to find it.
  • Decreased or poor judgment. Patients with Alzheimer’s may experience changes in judgment on decision-making. They may use poor judgment when dealing with money or pay less attention to personal hygiene or keeping clean.
    • Typical Age-related Changes: Making a bad decision or mistake once in a while, like neglecting to change the oil in the car.
  • Withdrawal from work or social activities. A person who lives with Alzheimer’s disease may experience change in the ability to hold or follow a conversation. Because of this, they may withdraw from social activities or other engagements.
    • Typical Age-related Changes: Sometimes feeling uninterested in family or social obligations.
  • Changes in personality and mood. These individuals may experience personality changes and become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful and anxious. They may be easily upset when they are in or out of their comfort zone.
    • Typical Age-related Changes: Developing very specific ways of doing things and becoming irritable when a routine is disrupted.

If you suspect, get Checked!

If you notice you have one or more of the signs of Alzheimer’s, schedule an appointment with your doctor to discuss your symptoms. It is natural to feel nervous and uncertain with discussing these changes with others but know that you are not alone. While voicing your concerns can make these issues feel more real, speaking up will ultimately put the control back in your hands with early detection.

Resources Used:

Reclaiming Intimacy

Alzheimer’s Association

A Place for Mom

World Alz Month

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