Unfortunately practically all of us know of someone – friend, relative or acquaintance - with Alzheimer’s disease. This dreaded disease not only robs people of their memories and cognitive abilities, but robs family members of the person they once knew that is still here yet, is no longer the same person they once recognized.
Current facts on Alzheimer’s
Current facts from the Alzheimer’s Association for 2016 paints a bleak picture of Alzheimer’s continued march and escalating encroachment on overtaking more and more lives into its realm of destroying memory and mental functioning. These facts include the following:
· Currently 5.4 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s
· 1 in 3 seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia
· In 2015, more than 15 million caregivers provided an estimated 18.1 billion hours of unpaid care
· Every 66 seconds someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s disease
· 1 in 9 people age 65 and older have Alzheimer’s disease
· By 2050, the number of people with Alzheimer’s may nearly triple from 5.4 to a projected 13.8 million, barring the development of medical breakthroughs to prevent or cure the disease.
Why it’s important to recognize early signs of Alzheimer’s
When we think of Alzheimer’s disease, we tend to conjure a picture of someone who no longer knows who you are or babbles nonsensical comments. That may be the case for some who are in the later stages of the disease but would you know early signs of its onset? What if you were familiar with subtle yet important changes in a person’s persona helping you recognize a problem needing to be addressed?
There are certain signs, especially at the onset which can take place years before an actual diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is made, forewarning of early indicators of this disease. Any time there is a change that is different from a person’s usual behavior or abilities, this could be a cause for concern – the earlier it is recognized, the sooner they can be diagnosed and helped.
Early signs of Alzheimer’s
1. Difficulty speaking
One early sign of Alzheimer’s could be increased difficulty forming words to speak or stopping mid-sentence, not knowing what to say next. Anytime a person who used to be fluent in speaking suddenly has trouble producing speech like they used to, could be an early sign of Alzheimer’s
2. Money problems
A classic early sign is increased difficulty managing money. They may become confused on things they used to do without any problems such as balancing a checkbook or keeping up with paying bills. As the disease progresses, poor financial decisions can be made from paying a telemarketer for items they don’t need to running up a credit card balance.
3. Compulsive behavior
Becoming overly compulsive or ritualistic could an early sign of dementia. This behavior could manifest itself from overbuying of food they don’t need to filling up an entire room with books or clothing. These same people often struggle with being able to throw anything away such as decades old clothing to worn-out furniture.
4. Loss of empathy for others
If someone you once knew as a sweet, docile person has now turned into someone who shows little mercy or is saying inappropriate things – they could be exhibiting signs of early Alzheimer’s. You may notice they have become increasingly inept at recognizing social cues or understand why what they just said is hurtful to someone.
5. Staring more than usual
One sign of possible dementia is what is termed as “reduced gaze.” This is where a person may have a prolonged gaze towards you as if they may not be completely aware of their circumstance or surroundings.
6. Inappropriate behavior
If a person has demonstrated behavior that is not accepted in appropriate social norms or is out-of-character for them, this is another sign of possible dementia. Inappropriate behavior of shoplifting, sexual comments or actions, walking into someone’s house without knocking are symptoms needing to be addressed right away as they could lead to legal troubles for the person demonstrating this behavior.
7. Frequent falls
It is not uncommon for elderly people to experience a fall now and then but frequent falling can be an early sign for Alzheimer’s disease. A person’s gait or how well they can walk could be one way to suspect if someone may be developing the condition. They may be showing more signs of being unbalanced or having trouble with walking and maintaining their coordination.
8. Mood and personality changes
One of the most common reasons why family members may suspect a loved one is displaying symptoms of Alzheimer’s is changes in their mood or personality. Often a person in the early stages may show signs of more anxiety, confusion, depression, fearfulness or suspension of others. It is not uncommon for someone with Alzheimer’s to become easily irritated, agitated or upset especially if they are feeling threatened, uncomfortable or have had their normal routine disrupted.
9. Withdrawal from social activities
Anytime a person is showing signs of losing interest in social activities they once enjoyed or refraining from hobbies or projects they love, this can be an early indication of dementia setting in.
10. Increased misplacing of things
We all misplace things from time to time but when it is occurring frequently or they are placing items where they normally would not – such as placing car keys in a refrigerator – this is probably a warning sign of Alzheimer’s. They may also demonstrate behavior of being unable to retrace their steps to something that is lost or they may accuse others of stealing the item they are missing.
11. Confusion of time and place
People who are unable to know the date or time of day, what season it is, or are not able to remember what they had for lunch just an hour ago are showing confusion indicating dementia. The passage of time has become confusing for them and they may not totally understand where they are or how they got there.
12. Difficulty with familiar tasks
Those with early Alzheimer’s may have more difficulty in performing certain tasks they have done for years – remembering the route to the grocery store, how to replace batteries in a clock, or the rules to playing a favorite game.
Don’t ignore Alzheimer’s warning signs
Anytime someone is displaying signs of Alzheimer’, don’t delay in having them evaluated. The longer you put it off to see if things improve, the smaller the window of opportunity becomes to get them the help they need as soon as possible. Keep in mind, just because a person may show some of the signs mentioned, does not automatically mean they have Alzheimer’s. But if they do, the sooner it can be diagnosed, the sooner they can get treater and the sooner the family can make plans for their future.