Did you know that out of the top 10 causes of death in the United States, Alzheimer’s disease is the only one that cannot be prevented, cured, or slowed? To raise public awareness of this disease, President Ronald Reagan designated November National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month in 1983, a campaign that’s still observed today.
Alzheimer’s disease is progressive, meaning that the impact to memory, language, and general cognitive functioning gradually worsens over time. Unfortunately, many people with Alzheimer’s and their families don’t recognize that there is a problem until the disease is already fairly advanced. Take a look at these 10 early signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease from the Alzheimer’s Association, and you may be able to help someone you love get the help they need:
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life: Often this involves forgetting things that have been recently learned, repeatedly asking the same question, or relying heavily on notes, lists or other memory aids.
- Difficulty planning or solving problems: Figuring out how to identify and solve a problem can be challenging for someone with Alzheimer’s. Developing a plan requires multi-step reasoning that can be difficult given the cognitive impairment that accompanies early stage dementia.
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks: Activities that used to be easy may become difficult, for example, finding their way to a familiar location or making a recipe that they’ve made for years.
- Confusion with time or place: Alzheimer’s can cause disorientation; the person may forget what season or year it is, or may forget where they are or how they got there.
- Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships: Problems processing visual information sometimes accompany Alzheimer’s, for example, difficulty reading, judging distance, or distinguishing colors or other visual contrasts.
- New problems with language: It may be difficult for the person to find the word they want to use or to follow a conversation. You may notice that they frequently repeat themselves, abandon a thought mid-sentence, or use the wrong words for familiar objects.
- Frequently misplacing things: People in the early stages of Alzheimer’s may frequently lose things, either putting them in odd places or forgetting where they keep them.
- Decreased or poor judgment: Changes in judgment or decision-making may occur. Decisions may seem irrational or reckless, for example giving a large sum of money to a telemarketer.
- Withdrawal from work or social activities: Social issues are common in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Because of increasing confusion and difficulty with language, the person may withdraw from activities they enjoy or spend less time with others.
- Changes in mood and personality: The changes that accompany Alzheimer’s can cause a person to become anxious, depressed, or show other personality changes that seem out of character.
It’s important to note that none of these signs in and of themselves indicate a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. Typical aging can create changes that are similar to those above, but less severe and don’t impact daily life as severely. To learn more about these signs and symptoms and how to distinguish them from typical aging, take a look at the Alzheimer’s Association’s website: http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_know_the_10_signs.asp
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