It is the 6th leading cause of the death in the U.S. and every 66 seconds another person is diagnosed. Knowing the warning signs helps recognize the onset of Dementia.
Most people associate Alzheimer’s disease with memory loss, but it is more than just forgetfulness. It is common for people to become forgetful as they grow older, but this is not always a sign of the disease. Memory loss is only part of the decline in cognitive function when Alzheimer’s affects the brain. Understanding the signs and behaviors common in the early stages helps to obtain the care needed as quickly as possible.
Many people will forget an appointment or where they left their car keys especially as they get older. Usually Alzheimer’s first targets short term memory. Those with Dementia have a hard time retaining newly learned information and sometimes ask the same questions over and over. Another warning sign memory is failing is an increased use of visual aids, such as lists or notes to do daily tasks.
A warning sign of Alzheimer’s is confusion surrounding daily life. Becoming lost when driving or walking to a familiar place is a concern. Time is also problematic to track and in the early stages there is difficulty knowing days, weeks and months. While it is common to think it is Tuesday instead of Wednesday most people will eventually realize their mistake. Those with a decline in brain function feel confused when they are told of the true date compared to what they believe. They also may become agitated due to their sense of confusion, sometimes accusing others of stealing items they cannot find.
Difficulty with problem-solving skills or following directions is common. Calculating numbers becomes difficult, making it hard to give exact change or keep an accurate ledger of bank accounts. While errors happen to all of us, those with Alzheimer’s begin to have more pronounced issues with following recipes, directions or completing simple mathematic problems.
Due to the frustration felt as cognitive tasks become more difficult many Alzheimer’s patients exhibit changes in behavior. They may become irritable for no reason or be reluctant to attend social events. It is common for those having these early symptoms to begin isolating themselves to avoid embarrassing situations. Some people may become depressed or show signs of anxiety. Judgement may also be impacted, making them more susceptible to telemarketers and other solicitation attempts.
Alzheimer’s disease affects the vision and perception of some. This makes it difficult to determine contrasting colors or to calculate distance when driving. These vision issues are connected to how the brain perceives the world around them versus poor vision due to age-related conditions. This may result in lack of personal hygiene, clothes not matching and an unkempt appearance.
Lack of understanding verbal or written communication as well as responsiveness to the conversation are warning signs of Alzheimer’s. Individuals may have trouble following a conversation, finding the right word or remembering their line of thought. They begin to isolate themselves and avoid social situations. Avid readers are unable to fully concentrate on the written word.
The key to recognizing a consistent pattern of change in cognitive function beyond the normal scope of age-related issues is knowing the above signs. Early detection helps loved ones begin finding the right care to ensure safety while offering a higher quality of life.
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