Alzheimer's is a cruel, debilitating disease that destroys a person's brain over time. It corrupts the ability to store memories and can ultimately sap a person of their very identity. Currently, there is no cure or treatment method that can reverse the effects of Alzheimer's. However, discovering the dirge of Alzheimer's before it becomes severe can help a person live a more peaceful, dignified life.
When one is aware of the warning signs of Alzheimer’s in seniors, it becomes possible to institute necessary steps to provide proper home care and support one may need during the more critical stages of the disease. Below are several symptoms of dementia that could be indicative of developing Alzheimer's. While some symptoms may be present in healthy individuals, it's important to realize that a culmination of symptoms can be serious.
1. Memory Loss
The first and most prominent symptom of developing Alzheimer's is a marked loss of memory. It's normal for people of any age — and especially seniors — to forget things occasionally, but forgetting new information persistently can be a red flag. Alzheimer's first attacks the brain's ability to store short term memories.
Memory loss can manifest when trying to learn new recipes, names, instructions, directions, and other simple information. If seniors are trying to learn a new skill, but are experiencing memory loss, they may find it particularly hard to latch onto new concepts and progress may be stalled.
2. Withering Concepts of Time and Place
If a senior becomes confused about where they are this could be a sign of Alzheimer’s. Such occurrences are common during the early stages of dementia. A senior may find themselves at a loss of how to get home from a store or workplace, which can become dangerous when driving or walking alone.
Becoming unaware of time is also an important warning sign. It's common for seniors who have dementia to lose cognizance of seasonal changes, birthdays, anniversaries, and other important dates. Being able to remain prompt and keep schedules may also become an issue when these things used to be routine.
3. Conversation Problems
The onset of Alzheimer's can make it difficult to construct meaningful conversation with friends, family, and coworkers. Since short-term memory loss is so tenacious, it's easy for a senior to lose grip on new vocabulary, including names, locations, and even more abstract concepts. It's possible for an individual to be engaged in a conversation while simultaneously forgetting what was said to them only moments ago.
Such a stutter in social interactions can make it difficult to forge new relationships and keep track of the relevance of data. Seniors may find they need to allocate much more energy to focusing on a conversation than ever before. If you are a home caregiver or a family member of a senior loved one and notice this behavior, it could be a warning sign that Alzheimer’s is present.
4. Losing Things
Beyond intangible memories and information, Alzheimer's can also spur the misplacement of objects. Seniors with early symptoms may start misplacing items like their phone, keys, money and other valuables. One may find that they've placed electronic devices in the refrigerator, or thrown something important away by mistake.
A home caregiver may be accused of stealing if things wind up missing, when the reality is the items were simply moved or discarded without recollection.
5. Withdrawal from Social Interactions
When a person loses the lucidity to engage in flowing conversations, or the ability to focus on absorbing new information, it can be difficult to engage with people at all. Alzheimer's can be particularly insidious in that it severs a senior's ties with their loved ones.
A senior who has Alzheimer's is likely to start isolating themselves from others, while disengaging from hobbies and activities that were previously enjoyable. Seniors who used to enjoy being active outdoors will start to become more distant and wary of opening themselves up to the outside world. This inactivity can unfortunately exacerbate the Alzheimer's and increase severity.
6. Mood Swings
Even the most jovial, optimistic person can be reduced to a sullen shell by Alzheimer's. It's a disease that can sap the happiness from a person, the dark energy leaching into nearby friends and family. Swift and unexplained changes in mood are strong warning signs of Alzheimer's, especially in people who don't have a history of mood disorders.
In people who are prone to mental duress like anxiety, depression, and compulsive behavior, Alzheimer's can make such ailments worse. Spikes of anger, sadness, and fear can be triggered by seemingly small issues, so it's important for a home caregiver to have a strong level of patience and understanding if working with seniors who have Alzheimer’s.
One of the most outward warning signs of Alzheimer's is a noticeable lack of self-care. Seniors who were previously self-sufficient, independent individuals may find they require the aid of a home caregiver help with daily tasks.
An interest in personal hygiene may have dissipated, as well as a disinterest in proper nutrition and exercise. A senior who has dementia may also neglect the well-being of plants, pets, and household chores. Previously vital, active seniors may become morose, apathetic and lacking interest in the passions they once held dear. A dependency on alcohol or other substances can also bloom.
Alzheimer's, Long-Term Memory Care, and Home Caregiving
Alzheimer's is the culprit in nearly seventy percent of all dementia cases, and life expectancy following diagnosis is often between three and nine years. The effects of this disease can be very draining on not only the sufferer, but family members and home caregivers as well. The first step towards seeking help involves setting up an appointment with a doctor.
While it's possible to observe symptoms in a senior loved one, nothing is comparable to the professional opinion of a physician. To reach a diagnosis, a senior will need a physical and neurological exam including blood tests, brain imaging, and mental health screenings. Once a diagnosis is made, treatment options may be considered, such as home caregiving and long-term memory care.