If you recently spent time catching up with a senior loved one you haven’t seen in a while, you might find yourself worrying about some of the changes you witnessed. Many people aren’t sure if changes they see are the signs of normal aging or something more serious. If memory loss is one of those changes you noticed, you might be concerned your family member has Alzheimer’s disease.
First, know there are some conditions that mimic Alzheimer’s disease that are reversible with treatment. A urinary tract infection, a vitamin B12 deficiency, and even dehydration can cause similar symptoms. But it is important to note the changes and compare them with what are considered to be some of the early warning signs of Alzheimer’s.
Recognizing the Early Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease
According to the experts at the Alzheimer’s Association, ten of the most common early warning signs are:
- Memory loss: Everyone forgets a few things on occasion. In a fast-paced life, it’s easy to understand why. But when memory loss disrupts daily life, it is something that should be addressed with a physician.
- Trouble planning: Because Alzheimer’s disease impacts a person’s abstract thought process, they often struggle with planning and problem solving. Following the directions on a recipe or planning what errands they need to complete are a few examples of things that can become difficult to do.
- Difficulty completing tasks: A similar red flag might be if a senior loved one doesn’t seem to finish household tasks they start or if they have trouble engaging in familiar hobbies. If your loved one has always been part of a card group and they suddenly withdraw, it might be that they are having difficulty keeping up.
- Trouble with visual recognition: People with Alzheimer’s have trouble with visual and spatial perception. A lifelong reader might stop reading because they can’t process the words on the page. Even driving becomes tough because the adult can’t judge distances or read road signs.
- Misplacing items: Most of us misplace things from time to time. But we are able to retrace our steps and locate what we lost. For a person with Alzheimer’s, misplacing things or leaving things in strange locations (e.g., car keys in the freezer) becomes commonplace. Because memory is impacted, a person with Alzheimer’s usually can’t retrace their day to find their missing item.
- Change in disposition: When a senior parent’s disposition changes significantly, it is something that should be investigated. Sometimes it can be the result of depression or an infection. In other cases, it might be an early indicator of Alzheimer’s or a similar form of dementia.
- Difficulty with time and place: This warning sign is one more people are familiar with. People with Alzheimer’s struggle to stay oriented to time and place. They may get lost driving or walking to and from long familiar destinations.
- Problems with communication: Alzheimer’s can impact a person’s ability to communicate. For some, it begins with the loss of written communication skills. Writing a letter or email might be a struggle. Others struggle to find the right words during a conversation.
- Poor judgment: Seniors are often targeted for financial scams. But if your loved one seems to be falling for a variety of scams or begins making poor decisions with their money, it might be a sign their judgment is impaired. That can be another early sign of Alzheimer’s.
- Avoiding people: If a senior suspects something is wrong, they might begin to withdraw from favorite hobbies or volunteer work. They may even avoid family and friends. It can be because they are embarrassed they aren’t able to carry on a conversation like they used to or for fear a close friend will figure out something isn’t right and insist they see a physician.
If you notice more than one or two of these changes in a senior loved one, it’s worth discussing with them and their primary care physician. It might be something that can be treated. But if it is Alzheimer’s, know early intervention will give you time to create a plan that helps them live their best life despite the disease.
Today’s dementia care communities, often referred to as memory care programs, focus on supporting a senior’s remaining abilities. That helps them feel successful and independent even as the disease progresses. Call us today at (888) 514-6461 to talk to a local care advisor for free.