Stephan Baldwin is the Director of Business Development for Assisted Living Center, an online resource for communities, articles, and assisted living guide.
Is it normal aging or Alzheimer's – how can a caregiver know? Early detection of Alzheimer's disease is important, as it gives patients a better chance to benefit from treatment, including clinical trials. Patients who know the early warning signs of Alzheimer's can help make plans for their own care, legal and living arrangements before they're declared legally unable to make their own decisions. It also gives families time to plan and find support.
Detected early, there are treatments and medications that can slow down the effects of Alzheimer's.
But does your relative or loved one really have Alzheimer's? Your observations can help distinguish normal age-related memory loss from this serious dementia. The following signs point to a need for Alzheimer's testing.
Related Read: Lewy Body Dementia, what you need to know
10 Early Warning signs of Alzheimer's
1. Memory Loss that Is Problematic
Your loved one starts forgetting things she's known for years, like her child's birthday or a phone number she uses often. She frequently repeats the same questions, often within a few minutes. On the other hand, temporarily forgetting a word or why one entered a room could just be common forgetfulness.
2. Difficulty with Planning and Problem-Solving
Concentration and planning have become hard for your relative. He is forgetting monthly bills, paying the same ones twice, or cannot balance the checkbook. On the other hand, making an error adding or calculating may just be a simple mistake and not a sign of dementia.
3. Basic Tasks Are Difficult to Complete
Something they've done a thousand times now becomes monumental. An accountant has trouble using a spreadsheet, a baker forgets to use eggs in a favorite recipe. The familiar has become daunting, even scary. However, there's probably no need to worry if your loved one needs help with tasks that are simple for you but are not familiar to her.
4. Diminished Sense of Time and Place
Your father is not aware of the current year or month. He may forget where he is, how he got there, or what happened on the way. Just pausing to recall the day of the week is normal with aging, however. It's something everyone frequently does.
5. Problems with Vision and Distance
Has your loved one begun to have trouble reading? Does she have trouble judging distances, stopping well short or much too late? Driving ability can be impaired, which is one reason that early diagnosis is very important for the patient's safety and for that of others.
6. Struggling for Words
If your relative cannot follow or participate in a conversation, often repeats himself or misnames things, he may need evaluation. Looking for the right word at times, however, is common with aging.
7. Misplacing Things
Your mother puts her glasses in the pantry or her car keys in the refrigerator. She may accuse you of taking things, and cannot retrace her steps to find them. On the other hand, if she can retrace her steps to locate her purse in a place that she normally keeps it, there's not much to worry about.
8. Poor Judgment and Self-Care
A person who has always been frugal begins wasting money. Your meticulously-groomed uncle forgets to shower or comb his hair or puts on a shirt that is wrinkled and dirty. These are just a few examples that should alert you to get a doctor's opinion.
Your husband refuses new projects at work. Your next-door neighbor now declines your invitations for coffee, not just this week, but the last six weeks. Withdrawal and/or isolation are potential symptoms of dementia.
It's important to be supportive when older adults showing dementia symptoms become withdrawn.
Has your loved one become depressed, anxious, or suspicious? Alzheimer's can cause people to get confused easily and for their demeanor to change.
Early Is Best for Everyone
Early detection of Alzheimer's is crucial for patients and families who need support. The most important thing is to know that you're not alone. Alzheimer's disease affects millions of people worldwide. If you or your loved one suspect Alzheimer's disease, get them tested. The test is non-invasive and can assist them in getting help as early as possible.
Think your loved one is starting to show signs of dementia? You don't have to do it alone. Learn more about senior caregiving now.