Losing keys, forgetting words, confusion. When we begin to have these experiences, we often joke, saying we’re having a “senior moment”.
But what happens when memory loss is more than that?
September is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, so we wanted to put a spotlight on some basic Alzheimer’s facts to get you more acquainted with what Alzheimer’s really is, what to look out for, and what to do when you see the signs. Call it a little Alzheimer’s 101.
Alzheimer’s disease affects approximately 5.7 million people in the US alone and is one of the most common signs of dementia. We hear about Alzheimer’s disease and think we know what it entails, but unless we’ve had experience with it first hand, we often assume Alzheimer’s disease is “just” memory loss. But, if the memory loss is at a point where it disrupts daily life and behaviors, it’s time to learn more about Alzheimer’s.
What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
The Alzheimer’s Association defines Alzheimer’s as a progressive brain disease that gradually worsens over time, and causes a decline in memory, reasoning and thinking skills.
What to look out for
Here are some of the early signs of Alzheimer’s disease to be aware of:
- Memory loss – Forgetting recently learned information, forgetting important dates, names, and repeatedly asking the same questions are some initial signs of memory loss.
- Mood changes – Personality changes are a big indicator of Alzheimer’s. One may begin to have a hard time making sense of the world around them and have irrational emotional reactions.
- Usual tasks seem overwhelming – People developing Alzheimer’s are more likely to have problems focusing on a recipe or paying bills. Usual household chores may seem overwhelming as well.
- Confusion regarding time and place – Dates may become confusing. Not knowing how one got where he or she, or wandering away, is also common.
- Vision changes – While vision changes are common for most of us as we age, there are vision-related symptoms specific to Alzheimer’s. Difficulty with depth perception, balance, reading, and determining color begin to occur, which can lead to issues while walking, using stairs, and driving.
- Problems speaking or writing – We all have a moment here and there when we forget the word we’re looking for. But a person with Alzheimer’s will forget not only the words but sometimes stop mid-conversation, forgetting what the conversation is about.
- Losing things – It’s not uncommon to put something in a “safe” place so we don’t forget where it is and end up finding our keys or that gift in an odd spot. But if going back over one’s steps seems too challenging, it may be a symptom of Alzheimer’s.
- Poor judgment – If you see that money is being overspent or that regular grooming is being ignored, it may be more than forgetfulness.
- Seeming withdrawn – People with Alzheimer’s disease will often be withdrawn in social situations. They may withdraw from usual hobbies or social interactions.
How Alzheimer’s is Diagnosed
Get your check-up – from the neck up. Your physician is on the front line of support and diagnosis. If you see signs of Alzheimer’s disease in yourself or a loved one, please contact your physician so they can give a professional diagnosis and work with you to begin a care plan. It may feel daunting or overwhelming at first, but it’s important to take the first step. Know that there is help to manage symptoms and lead a healthy life.
Let’s continue the conversation – Up next month: Alzheimer’s disease – help and support
We hear from family members of Alzheimer’s that at first, they planned on handling their loved ones conditions within the family. But as time progressed, they realized they needed help. We are all too familiar with the emotional and physical impact of Alzheimers on both the patient and their loved ones. You don’t have to go it alone. We are here for you.
If you would like to learn more about Alzheimer’s disease, The Alzheimer’s Association and The National Institute on Aging are helpful resources to look into. We always recommend checking in with your physician first.