10 Warning Signs and Stages of Alzheimer's Disease
Last week I said that if I had only been shown the “Ten Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease,” I would have understood what was happening to my parents and helped them a year sooner. This week I want to go over the signs with you, so you don’t make the mistake I made and assume that your loved one’s intermittent and illogical and irrational behaviors are simply a normal part of aging. (Reprinted with permission of the Alzheimer’s Association)
The Alzheimer’s Association says that some change in memory is normal as we grow older, but the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are more than simple lapses in memory. People with AD experience difficulty communicating, learning, thinking and reasoning--severe enough to have an impact on work, social activities and family life.
1. Memory loss: One of the most common early signs of dementia is forgetting recently learned information. While it’s normal to forget appointments, names or telephone numbers, those with dementia will forget such things more often and not remember them later.
2. Difficulty performing familiar tasks: People with dementia often find it hard to complete everyday tasks that are so familiar we usually do not think about how to do them. A person with Alzheimer’s may not know the steps for preparing a meal, using a household appliance or participating in a lifelong hobby.
3. Problems with language: Everyone has trouble finding the right word sometimes, but a person with Alzheimer’s often forgets simple words or substitutes unusual words, making his or her speech or writing hard to understand. If a person with Alzheimer’s is unable to find his or her toothbrush, for example, the individual may ask for "that thing for my mouth."
4. Disorientation to time and place: It’s normal to forget the day of the week or where you’re going. But people with Alzheimer’s can become lost on their own street. They may forget where they are and how they got there, and may not know how to get back home.
5. Poor or decreased judgment: No one has perfect judgment all of the time. Those with Alzheimer’s may dress without regard to the weather, wearing several shirts on a warm day or very little clothing in cold weather. Those with dementia often show poor judgment about money, giving away large sums to telemarketers or paying for home repairs or products they don’t need.
6. Problems with abstract thinking: Balancing a checkbook is a task that can be challenging for some. But a person with Alzheimer’s may forget what the numbers represent and what needs to be done with them.
7. Misplacing things: Anyone can temporarily misplace a wallet or key. A person with Alzheimer’s disease may put things in unusual places, like an iron in the freezer or a wristwatch in the sugar bowl.
8. Changes in mood or behavior: Everyone can become sad or moody from time to time. Someone with Alzheimer’s disease can show rapid mood swings - from calm to tears to anger - for no apparent reason.
9. Changes in personality: Personalities ordinarily change somewhat with age. But a person with Alzheimer’s can change dramatically, becoming extremely confused, suspicious, fearful or dependent on a family member.
10. Loss of initiative: It’s normal to tire of housework, business activities or social obligations at times. The person with Alzheimer’s may become very passive, sitting in front of the television for hours, sleeping more than usual or not wanting to do usual activities.
People often ask if a person has to experience all of these symptoms to have AD. No, noticing that a loved one has just one of these signs should be enough to realize it is time for a thorough evaluation--but unfortunately most people ignore these intermittent signals (statistically for four years), chalking it all up to getting older.
The BIG problem with that is by the time the disease gets bad enough for family members to reach out for help (usually after a crisis), the dementia has progressed through subtle Stage One and is already into Stage Two, which requires full-time care. Unfortunately, even with dementia medication to slow the disease, the patient can’t go back to the relatively independent lifestyle of Stage One.
If everyone knew to reach out for help at the earliest warning signs and seek thorough evaluation and treatment, the progression of dementia can usually be slowed down by several years. That is HUGE--because during that time medical science will probably develop better medications and hopefully even a cure.
Medical science is working hard to find solutions because 76 million baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) are getting older and the first wave will begin turning 65 in five years. Since one out of every ten persons by the age of 65 gets AD, and nearly one out of every two by the age of 85, a medical crisis is brewing, as there just won’t be enough caregivers to help everyone needing care.
Therefore, if you or someone you love is experiencing any of these warning signs, even if they are subtle, intermittent and "not that bad yet" (they will be), I can’t urge you enough to seek a thorough evaluation by a DEMENTIA SPECIALIST who will do all the tests required for an accurate diagnosis. Waiting is the worst thing you can do. Simply call the Alzheimer’s Association 800-272-3900 and ask where your closest diagnostic center is. Tell them Jacqueline sent you!
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You can learn more about Jacqueline and find information about her book at ElderRage.com.
Published On: May 04, 2006