Forgetfulness is not always about Alzheimer’s disease, but even if it is a normal part of aging, it should still be addressed and considered in the life of the elderly. Should Forgetfulness Be a Sign to Move into an Assisted Living Community?
10 Early Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease
- What is Alzheimer's Disease?
- Risk Factors
- 10 Early Signs of Alzheimer's Disease to Look Out For
Alzheimer's disease is known to be the most common cause of dementia in older adults. Affected individuals rarely show symptoms before 50 years of age. Hence, this is common among senior family members like our aging parents or grandparents.
The incidence of Alzheimer's Disease increases with age, and the probability of being diagnosed with it roughly doubles every five years.
However, Alzheimer's disease is more than just a statistic.
What is Alzheimer's Disease?
Alzheimer's disease is a disorder that affects the brain. It is a progressive disease that slowly deteriorates one's memory and thinking skills.
Later in life, an elderly loved one who has AD may eventually lose the ability to carry out even the most familiar tasks.
Up to this day, there is still unknown treatment for this disease. Even how the disease starts remains a blur. However, enumerated below are some of the common risk factors.
One of the most critical risk factors for Alzheimer's disease is age. Persons aged 65 and older are at risk, and it increases with each decade of adult life.
Female sex is also a risk factor independent of the greater longevity of women.
The second most important, next to age, is a positive family history of dementia. This disease is more likely to get passed on within the family tree. In addition, if the condition already runs in the family, environmental factors may also play a role. Such as over usage of pain medications.
It may sound overwhelming at this point. However, if you want to know what the disease looks like, we've listed below some common signs to look out for.
10 Early Signs of Alzheimer's Disease to Look Out For
The average cost of caring for a single patient with advanced Alzheimer's Disease is estimated to be more than $50,000 annually. However, the emotional toll it gives the family members and caregivers is immeasurable.
If you think any in your family is at risk, make sure to look out for the following early signs of the disease.
1. Difficulty With Naming
One of the first signs of Alzheimer's to look out for is linguistic symptoms. One of which is the naming deficit.
There are two types of naming deficit, or, scientifically called, aphasia. There is expressive aphasia, wherein someone cannot find the right words or say something incorrectly. And this includes those "tip of the tongue" moments. Then there is receptive aphasia, which is the inability to receive and interpret language.
Note that difficulty with naming may either be that of a person or an object. Some studies say expressive aphasia usually comes first and then receptive.
Alzheimer's disease causes problems with short-term memory. Thus, this leads to repetitive behaviors.
An affected person may sometimes say something or do something again and again, without noticing it. For instance, they may ask the same question within the last five minutes. Or probably undo something and then redo it over and over again.
Semantic memory involves all the general knowledge a person was able to learn throughout their lives. It allows everyone to recall a word, for example, or different concepts. And once this gets lost or impaired, the repetition incidences start to show up.
3. Memory Loss
In the early stages of AD, memory loss may go unrecognized and sometimes be associated with aging.
If a senior family member's forgetfulness becomes repetitive, seeing a doctor should be the next step. This is to rule out Alzheimer's disease or any form of dementia in that manner.
4. Non-memory Loss
Although memory loss is one of the signs of Alzheimer's disease that brings about a concern, this is not the case for about 20% of patients.
Some patients may also present with non-memory complaints. This includes difficulty with navigation and even cognitive impairment.
Look out for any of the following:
- Concentration difficulties
- Sudden overwhelming feelings of making decisions or plans
- Having a hard time understating directions
- Losing the ability to organize even the most straightforward and familiar tasks
A study in 2018 concluded that those patients who show prominent non-memory loss may have faster development of the disease and a higher risk of mortality.
5. Gets Confused Easily
Confusion is a common dilemma for persons who are over 65 years of age. Because of this, diseases such as Alzheimer's get overlooked.
The caregiver must be aware of the three types of confusion. There's hypoactivity, hyperactivity, or a combination of both. The patient may get withdrawn or suddenly get sleepy more than before. If not, they may feel easily agitated, upset, or nervous for no reason.
They may also have trouble understanding a particular event or keep losing track of dates.
6. Decreased Independence
When you constantly check on your loved ones, they may still be able to live on their own without any problems or issues.
The problem arises during the time you're not home. There might be instances when a suspected patient may struggle to go on with their day despite the established routine for years. They might not finish a shower and would need help dressing up or making their meals.
Once they start asking for help often for the things they used to do well should be enough reason to start seeking professional help.
Again, it's not officially diagnosing anything, instead to rule out a disease that may quickly get unnoticed. When this symptom starts showing up, other families turn to seek help from long-term care communities.
It is, therefore, crucial to know that changes in the environment tend to destabilize the patient. That is why, before making any big moves or decisions, seek the help of a professional first, and then start from there.
7. Emotional Changes
All the changes mentioned above may be overwhelming to an elderly loved one. As such, this may cause massive emotional changes.
Studies recognize sudden behavioral changes as an essential aspect of Alzheimer's disease. Hence, it can help if you do not ignore them.
Sometimes, this change may also develop earlier than memory loss. So make sure to track their sleeping patterns, as this cycle usually gets interrupted.
It is equally important to keep an eye on their eating patterns, or probably a sudden loss of appetite. You may also look out for repetitive anxiety attacks without any reasonable cause and, lastly, any severe mood swings.
Listed above are just some, but not limited to, of the common causes of emotional change. Hence, it is imperative that you get familiar with it to know what you're dealing with.
8. Social Withdrawal
One specific example of non-memory loss is the feeling of wanting to isolate one's self from a group or even from their own family.
Self-withdrawal can either bring about other symptoms of Alzheimer's disease or an effect of the first signs that come out.
According to studies, isolation is associated with a 50% increased risk of developing the disease. Therefore, if you have a loved one who lives alone, make sure to visit and check on them from time to time.
9. Increasing Poor Judgment
Another inevitable symptom to look out for is the loss of judgment and poor reasoning.
Don't be upset if one of your senior family members starts to misidentify you with someone else. Instead, count the number of times this incident happened. Notice any delusional occurrence, as it will be more prevalent, especially with common themes of theft or infidelity.
Regardless, it will help if you do not jump to any conclusions. Stay calm, and be with the patient until you see a clearer picture of the situation.
10. Executive Dysfunction
Executive dysfunction is already a collective term for all the symptoms presented above. Usually, this is when there's a more substantial possibility of getting diagnosed with the disease.
During this time, functional impairment becomes more pronounced. The patient may already show poor manipulation skills, loss of focus, and failed inhibition of any interfering stimuli. The memory loss becomes even more apparent as well.
Help becomes more needed, even when eating and going into the toilet. Hyperactive tendon reflexes may start to occur, and vision worsens quickly. The patient becomes dependent on the caregiver 100 percent of the time, without the patient noticing it.
Consider Alzheimer's disease as one of those monsters under your bed whom you believed when you were young. That's because this might creep in when you least expect it.
As tedious as it may sound, you have time to pick up valuable clues along the way, so do not ignore them.
The progression of the disease from the showing of the first symptoms is about 8 to 10 years, according to studies. And even the development of the disease is gradual.
Getting yourself familiar with at least some of the most common red flags may help in early diagnosis. An early diagnosis means early management as well.
Sure, there is no treatment for Alzheimer's Disease at the moment. However, we should not give up on the second objective, and that is to protect our elderly loved one's quality of life.