Is it ALZHEIMER's?
Alzheimer ’s disease, in its early stages, can be difficult to distinguish from common symptoms of aging. Most of us become more forgetful as we age and small slips and mistakes can lead our loved ones to worry that there is a more serious underlying problem. There is more to Alzheimer’s than just occasional memory loss, however. If you notice two or more of the following symptoms occurring regularly, it may be time to talk to your family physician for a professional diagnosis.
- Disruptive Memory Loss – it is normal for people of all ages to occasionally forget an appointment or have trouble recalling a name, but early Alzheimer’s symptoms involve forgetting important events and people as well as having difficulty with newly learned information. If your loved one repeatedly asks for the same information and relies heavily on handwritten notes and other reminders, it could be an early sign of the disease.
- Difficulty with Familiar Tasks – if you notice that your loved one has trouble completing tasks that were once easy for them to accomplish, keep a careful eye out for other instances. Alzheimer’s patients often forget favorite recipes, the basics of their favorite hobby, or even how to write a check.
- Renaming – memory problems often cause patients to forget even familiar words. If your loved one begins referring to close friends and family using generic language—“the guy with the hat”, “the one with the dog”, etc.—it could be a sign that they are coping with early memory loss. Similarly, you may notice your loved one inventing new ways of referring to everyday objects. They may refer to a watch as a “bracelet clock” or tea kettle as a “whistler”.
- Difficulty with Time and Place – one of the most common Alzheimer’s symptoms is confusion regarding time and place. Patients will call at odd hours, talk about going to lunch late at night, and suddenly act confused by their surroundings. In extreme cases, this can even lead to wandering, putting away items in strange places, and performing repetitive tasks that seemingly have no purpose.
- Rapid Changes in Personality – if you begin noticing symptoms in your loved one, they likely have noticed those symptoms as well. The sense of helplessness that accompanies Alzheimer’s and dementia can cause a patient’s mood and personality to shift quickly. Whether it is a quiet relative that suddenly begins yelling at the slightest provocation or seeing a social loved one withdraw from their favorite hobbies and social groups, no one acts the same once they begin to suspect they are suffering from Alzheimer’s.
Always consult a physician if you believe that someone you love may be exhibiting signs of Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. If your loved one does not have Alzheimer’s, a physician can help both of you put your mind and ease and explore other causes. And if they are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, a physician can help both of you prepare for the changes that it will bring to your lives.