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02/28/2016


What’s normal or what’s a sign of something worse?  We all have those scares when we lose our keys or forget names/dates and think it may be something more.  With Alzheimer’s and dementia in general on the rise and an aging population, it’s much too common a fear.  Alongside cancer, Alzheimer’s is the most feared disease in the USA.

While there currently is no cure for Alzheimers nor drugs in place to slow the progression, it is still important to know the signs of Alzheimer’s in yourself and others.  Why?  Alzheimer’s is a horrible and debilitating disease that has significant mental and physical effects.  By properly diagnosing it, caregivers and Alzheimer’s patients are in a better position to be cared for in an appropriate manner.  And for those who don’t have it, diagnosis can ease lurking fears in the hearts of individuals and families alike.  T

In this article, we identify a few common indicators which differentiated Alzheimer’s from natural aging and forgetfulness taken from the latest scientific research.

1. Progressive Memory Loss



This is the most well-known symptom of Alzheimer’s disease.  For those suffering with the disease, it often starts with an impairment in short-term memory (appearing to be normal bouts of forgetfulness).  Examples include repeatedly asking for the same information, forgetting important people or dates, or relying on memory aids (e.g. sticky notes) for things that they used to be able to remember unaided.

 As Alzheimer's progresses, you will notice long-term memory will be affected as well.  As the disease progresses to its final stages, people may not remember their own names. 

2. Decline in Cognitive Abilities



Cognitive abilities include problem solving, decision making, and demonstration of judgment and logic.  In its early stages, signs of this deterioration in cognitive ability include losing track of time, becoming easily disoriented, or other signs of poor judgment and lack of insight.  Symptoms for these vary but can include putting items in unusual places or frequently losing items, difficulty with tasks that used to be familiar and easy for them, and having difficulty concentrating on an idea or task.  

3. Change in Mood or Personality


Mood and personality changes include a person acting withdrawn, irritable, inexplicably hostile, apathetic, confused or anxious in their usual activities.

Depression is also another symptom of Alzheimer’s but watch out for this.  There is a syndrome called “Pseudo-dementia” where people appear to be demented but they are actually depressed.  Depression can effect concentration, motivation, focus and attention.   Instead of being put on appropriate anti-depressant medications and getting the other medical treatments and care they require, elderly people can be misdiagnosed with dementia and receive improper care. 

See Also: Depression and Other Conditions Misdiagnosed as Alzheimer's

4. Speech Impairment


Speech is another part of the brain which is commonly affected even in early stages of Alzheimer’s.  Signs of speech impairment include having difficulty finding words.  The person may ramble or use convoluted language and long-winded explanations in order to explain himself/herself because he/she cannot find the “right words” to accurately and succinctly express himself/herself.   He/she may also use substitute words which are either related (“tile game” instead of “Scrabble”) or words that sound similar (“bright” instead of “write”).


5. Behavioral Problems and 6. Sundowning


Problematic behavioral changes that arise suddenly and without cause is another sign of the disease.  ncreased stubbornness, resistence of care, refusal to give up unsafe activities, stealing, engaging in inappropriate secual behavior, urinating in unsuitable places, or using obscene/ hurtful language are a few examples of such troubling behavior. 

A phenomenon called Sundowning is also observed in Alzheimer's patients where the aforementioned behavior problems seem to worsen in late afternoon and evening inexplicably.  

7. Impairment of Basic Motor Skills


Known as Apraxia, this person has forgotten how to perform basic tasks such as dressing themselves or using electronic devices.  This is not to be confused with the weakness or paralysis experienced by stroke victims.

Most often, this develops gradually but in some cases this can be quite abrupt.  It maybe first evident in llegible handwriting, difficulty buttoning or fastening clothing or having difficulties with a TV remote.  

In late stages of Alzheimer's Disease, the person has difficulty sitting in a chair, chewing, or walking.  

one or switching channels on a TV set may disappear. Eventually the ability to chew, walk, or sit up in a chair is lost.

Conclusion

It is scary to think that you or a loved one has Alzheimer’s.  That’s probably why people and their families generally underreport the symptoms and some persons may even try to hide their symptoms from loved ones.    Compounded by common myths about Alzheimer’s and the gradual emergence of symptoms, Alzheimer’s disease can go undiagnosed through its early stages.  But information is power.  It helps us understand what is happening and how we can care for our loved ones.


If someone you know is exhibiting these signs (and did not experience these previously) or if you have any other reason to suspect they may have Alzheimer's, contact their physician right away so they can appropriately diagnose the person.  


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5 Min Test to Diagnose Alzheimer's - with 83% accuracy