Symptoms of Alzheimer's are sometimes confused with normal signs of aging. Here is some information to help you distinguish between them.
Alzheimer's disease: a very real problem
It is completely normal for the memory to falter a little or to fail occasionally. The problems associated with aging, such as memory lapses and concentration problems, are not necessarily signs that a person has Alzheimer's disease. The human brain is a highly complex and high-performing machine, but with time and some "wear and tear", we must expect to notice some "malfunctions".
Alzheimer's disease is not part of the normal aging process. Rather, it is a neurological disease that damages the brain. It results in an irreversible change in intellectual and motor functions that are manifested by the gradual deterioration of the affected person's condition and functioning.
The difficulties encountered and the speed at which the disease evolves considerably vary from one individual to another. Additionally, each individual reacts differently, depending on his/her health, lifestyle, personal history, psychosocial situation, and the context.
The onset of the disease often appears after the age of 60, but can sometimes strike at a younger age.
Recognizing telling signs of Alzheimer's disease
Alzheimer's disease is often difficult to detect, as its manifestations are initially subtle and occasional. Additionally, it can be confused with several other health conditions or problems (depression, anxiety, other types of dementia, etc.). At times, it is the affected person himself/herself that notices that something isn't right; other times it is someone close to him/her.
If you notice certain changes in a loved one, you may wonder if it could be Alzheimer's disease. Here are 10 signs you should watch out for.
Memory loss that affects day-to-day function
People with Alzheimer's often forget various things, especially recent events.
Difficulty performing familiar tasks
They have trouble executing tasks that they have done all of their lives, like preparing meals. They appear distracted and, for example, forget the vegetables cooking on the stove.
Problems with language
They seem to search for words, forget simple words or use words illogically, out of context, making it more and more difficult to follow the conversation or to understand it.
Disorientation of time and place
They sometimes get lost on their own street, not knowing how they got there or how to get home. They do not know which direction to take to go to familiar places.
Poor or decreased judgment
Although they have always shown good judgment, they suddenly adopt surprising behaviours, such as wearing heavy clothes on a very hot day or overly delaying to see a doctor for a health problem.
Problems with abstract thinking
They have difficulty accomplishing certain abstract tasks. For example, they do not understand what the numbers represent in a cheque book or are unable to do simple additions and subtractions.
They forget or lose objects everywhere, such as keys, a wallet, a telephone, etc. They put away objects in inappropriate places, such as a pen in the refrigerator or a wristwatch in the sugar bowl.
Changes in mood and behaviour
Being sad or moody from time to time is normal. People with Alzheimer's can exhibit sudden mood swings, for example, changing from a calm state to tears and then to anger for no apparent reason.
Changes in personality
You have the impression that you do not recognize your loved one. Once dynamic, they now suddenly seem apathetic. Once confident and positive, they are suddenly fearful and anxious for no apparent reason.
Loss of initiative
Housework, work—some activities can sometimes become tiresome, but enthusiasm usually returns. People with Alzheimer’s disease may become very passive, requiring cues and prompting to become involved.
If, after reading this text, you recognize certain characteristics in a person close to you, share your concerns with him/her or with others who can help. One of the first important steps is to have the person evaluated by a doctor to obtain a medical diagnosis. Then, optimal management will be possible.
For additional information about the disease and available resources, visit: www.alzheimer.ca. Additionally, don't hesitate to speak to your pharmacist.