November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, a time to honor the millions of Americans affected by Alzheimer’s disease and advocate for awareness, education, and a cure. When the designation was first made in 1983 by President Ronald Reagan, less than two million Americans were living with the disease. Today, more than five million people in the United States have Alzheimer’s, and more than ten million people are caregivers for a loved one with the disease.
Having a better understanding of Alzheimer’s can help families detect the signs and symptoms, take advantage of resources, and create a treatment plan for the future. However, only about half of people who are currently living with Alzheimer’s have been officially diagnosed by a doctor.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, early detection and earlier diagnosis of Alzheimer’s allows those with the disease to explore treatments that may provide some relief of symptoms and may help them maintain a level of independence for longer. Early detection also increases the chances of being able to participate in clinical trials that help to advance research for a cure.
In recognition of Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, we’re sharing information to help you become more familiar with the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Here are the top ten warning signs to look for, according to the Alzheimer’s Association:
1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life
It’s normal to occasionally forget dates, names, or appointments because we usually remember them later. But people living with Alzheimer’s disease commonly experience memory loss that affects their daily life. This may include forgetting recently learned information or even important life events. Someone with Alzheimer’s might ask the same questions repeatedly without realizing it or depend on memory aids to recall information.
2. Trouble with planning or complex, abstract thinking
Sometimes, people living with Alzheimer’s have difficulty with abstract thinking, such as following a plan or solving problems. This warning sign is often apparent when working with numbers. For example, they may have trouble balancing a checkbook or become confused when paying monthly bills.
3. Difficulty with familiar tasks
Those with Alzheimer’s might find it harder to perform routine tasks they once completed with ease. They might be unable to follow a familiar recipe or get lost when driving to a familiar location.
4. New problems with speech and language
A common sign of Alzheimer’s is experiencing difficulty with words, whether it’s in speaking or writing. Someone with the disease might struggle with finding the correct word to use, making it hard for them to follow or join conversations. Repeating words, phrases, or questions is another noticeable sign of dementia.
5. Disorientation as to time and place
Someone with Alzheimer’s may forget where they are or where they live and lose track of dates or seasons. Alzheimer’s can also affect a person’s perception of time, making a few minutes feel like hours.
6. Poor or decreased judgment
Alzheimer’s can impair one’s judgment and decision-making abilities. It might lead someone to make poor financial decisions, pay less attention to grooming than they once did, or wear the same clothes over and over.
7. Misplacing things
We all misplace our things from time to time, but people living with Alzheimer’s tend to leave their belongings in highly unusual places. Finding the remote in the refrigerator or the car keys in the sock drawer can be an indication that someone has dementia.
8. Changes in mood, behavior, and personality
It’s common for a person with Alzheimer’s to experience sudden mood swings and changes in their personality. They may become easily confused, upset, anxious, or irritable, especially when their routine is disrupted.
9. Trouble with visual and spatial relationships
While some vision problems are a natural part of the aging process, Alzheimer’s can impair one’s ability to understand visual or spatial relationships. Someone with Alzheimer’s might have trouble with judging distance and determining color or contrast, which makes reading and driving difficult. They may not recognize their reflection when they look in a mirror and think that another person is in the room with them.
10. Withdrawal and loss of initiative
Unfortunately, Alzheimer’s can be a very lonely and isolating disease. Those living with Alzheimer’s disease may slowly remove themselves from the hobbies and activities they once loved, or withdraw from social events and interactions. They might even try to hide their symptoms by avoiding family and friends completely.
Please note, these cognitive changes are not intended to serve as a definitive diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, and one symptom alone does not mean that a person has dementia. However, if you notice a loved one exhibiting more than one of these warning signs, the best course of action is to have them see their doctor.
The sooner your loved one receives an accurate diagnosis, the sooner you and your family can seek treatment and support and create a plan for the future. For many families, this plan includes moving to a senior living community that offers assisted living memory care. Assisted living memory care communities specialize in helping older adults with memory conditions live a better quality of life by providing care and support in a comfortable, secure living environment.