Alzheimer’s disease; is it simply the feeble and forgetful old person we knew growing up, or is it something bigger than that? Today the buzz in the medical community is dementia and the role it plays in the millions of Americans who are living way longer than they expected. At some point forgetfulness will play a part in your family’s life through a parent, sibling or a friend. There is NO cure for Alzheimer’s disease, which is a form of Dementia, but there are medications that will help slow down the progression of this horrible, memory robbing disease. What are the subtle signs that you should be looking for to know that it might be time for an evaluation and Alzheimer’s care? There is no “true” diagnosis of Alzheimer’s except through autopsy, so the key is to get to a neuropsychologist or neurologist and have a full, complete screening to ensure another underlying disease isn’t causing the dementia.
The first sign that something could be wrong is the mild and sometimes overlooked memory loss. The difference is that it’s not remembering your childhood friend; it’s remembering to eat breakfast.
Memory loss that disrupts daily life (forgetting appointments, asking the same question over and over again).
Challenges in planning and solving problems (forgetting a favorite recipe or balancing check book).
Difficulty completing familiar tasks (rules to your favorite game, driving to the local restaurant).
Confusion with time and place (confusion with seasons and failure to remember how you got somewhere).
Trouble understanding visual images and special relationships (reading or judging distances which could cause issues with driving).
New problems with words or speaking (keeping up with a conversation or communicating your needs effectively).
Misplacing things and trouble retracing steps (can’t find your glasses and can’t retrace your last steps to find them, leading to false accusations of theft).
Decreased of poor judgment ( giving away money to telemarketers or failing to keep clean and groomed).
Withdrawal from social settings ( due to memory loss and the stress and embarrassment this may lead to isolation).
Changes in mood or personality ( suspicious, depressed, anxious and fearful).
When one looks at the list of the top 10 symptoms above, you can see where once these symptoms begin to develop they can be misdiagnosed for many other medical conditions. It is important to identify these symptoms and not put them in the category of “Oh you’re just getting old, what do you expect”. These symptoms can be managed and medication can help slow the progression. Once these symptoms present themselves close supervision might be in order. Additional help from special needs caregivers may be needed a few times a week to ensure hygiene, nutrition and safety are continued. Alzheimer’s disease is a slow progression and the medical community is fighting hard to find a cure. Early recognition of these symptoms, medical, and family oversight is critical to the safety of our millions of older Americans suffering.
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