As a brain disease, Alzheimer’s causes a slow decline in an individual’s memory, thinking and reasoning skills. This decline is the result of changes in the brain, which develop years before symptoms appear. The symptoms of Alzheimer’s tend to worsen over time, although the rate at which the symptoms worsen varies between individuals. The severity of symptoms also varies between people.
The age of onset can vary too. While Alzheimer’s disease develops more frequently in older adults, symptoms can develop in younger people. About 200,000 of the 5.5 million Americans with Alzheimer’s developed the disease before the age of 65.
While everyone with the disease will experience the conditions in their own way, and according to their own body’s timetable, there are ten warning signs and symptoms that most people with Alzheimer’s disease experience.
The 10 Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s
1. Memory loss that interferes with daily life
Memory loss is one of the most common symptoms of Alzheimer’s, as the disease causes progressive damage to brain cells. Forgetting recently learned information is especially common among people with the disease. Asking for the same information repeatedly and relying more heavily on reminder notes or other memory aides are also signs of Alzheimer’s disease.
2. Finding it difficult to complete tasks
Some people with Alzheimer’s disease have difficulty completing everyday tasks, such as driving to a familiar location or cooking a meal. While it is normal for anyone to need occasional help recording a TV show or using a computer, having continual trouble doing daily tasks can be a sign of Alzheimer’s disease.
3. Difficulty making plans or solving problems
Developing plans and following them can be challenging for some people with Alzheimer’s disease. Some may have trouble following a familiar recipe, for example, or keeping track of their monthly bills. Others may experience difficulty working with numbers that goes beyond making the occasional error when balancing their checkbooks.
4. Confusion regarding time or place
We all lose track of time now and then, or get a little confused in places we haven’t been before. A person with Alzheimer’s can lose track of the month or day, forget which season it is, or be confused about the time. They may forget where they are, for example, or forget how they got there.
5. New problems with words
We all have trouble coming up with the right word now and then, but someone with this type of dementia may begin to have trouble with words while speaking or in writing more often than normal. He or she might have trouble joining into a conversation or following it. They may stop in the middle of a sentence and have no idea how to finish it, for example, or repeat themselves. The individual may also have trouble coming up with the right word for everyday items, such as calling a comb a “hair thing” running through a list of incorrect words in hopes of stumbling across the right one. The person might know what they want to communicate, but just cannot find the words.
6. Decreases in judgment and decision-making
Alzheimer’s disease can impair a person’s ability to make reasonable decisions. He or she may give money to a scammer, for example, or venture outdoors into freezing temperatures without a coat.
7. Misplacing things
A person with Alzheimer’s may put things in odd places and then have trouble retracing his or her steps to find the items again. They may put their wallet in the oven, for example, but have no clue as to how it got there. In some cases, the individual might even accuse another of stealing or hiding items. The loss or misplacement of items may become more frequent over time.
8. Problems understanding visual images
People with Alzheimer’s disease may misjudge distances, experience problems reading or have trouble determining color or contrast. These issues may complicate certain tasks, such as driving.
9. Withdrawal from work, hobbies and social interaction
Because Alzheimer’s robs people of their ability to plan events, drive, solve problems, keep track of things and participate in conversations, those with the disease tend to stop working, avoid social interactions and no longer enjoy their favorite hobbies.
10. Changes in personality and mood
It is normal to become set in our ways as we age and become irritated from time to time when something disrupts our daily routine. By comparison, a person with Alzheimer’s disease is more easily upset whenever they’re slightly out of their comfort zone. They may become confused, anxious, suspicious, fearful or depressed when at work, the grocery store, having dinner with friends or even at home with family.
If you notice any of these 10 signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease in a friend, family member or even yourself, take action right away. Make an appointment with a doctor.
Early detection leads to early treatment, which can bring relief for some symptoms and help extend an individual’s independent lifestyle. While treatment cannot cure Alzheimer’s or slow down the damage to brain cells, medications can lessen symptoms for a limited time. Early detection may also help you participate in clinical trials that help advance the understanding of Alzheimer’s disease in hopes of one day finding a cure.
Berkeley Oaks is a memory care community in historic Williamsburg, Virginia. Our mission is to provide individuals with memory challenges a place to live joyfully. Contact us today to learn more about our community or to schedule a tour.