On June 24, the House of Representatives approved a $300 million increase for research for Alzheimer’s disease. In a press release written by the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s disease was said to be “the only leading cause of death among the top 10 in the United States without a way to prevent, cure or even slow its progression,” and that the additional funding is a good step toward reaching the $2 billion needed “to meet the first goal of the national Alzheimer’s plan.”
Because Alzheimer’s disease researchers are still looking for a cure, it is important to know the 10 warning signs of Alzheimer’s.
Memory loss that disrupts daily life — Memory loss, particularly forgetting recently learned information, is one of the most common signs of Alzheimer’s. Someone in the early stages of Alzheimer’s might ask for the same information over and over again, or rely on aids – notes, electronic devices or family members – to remember things he or she used to recall by memory. Someone suffering from this type of memory loss can forget names or appointments, but remember them later on.
Challenges in planning or solving problems — Some people in the early stages of Alzheimer’s may have difficulty formulating and following a plan, or they may have trouble with numbers. Examples of this would be having trouble following familiar recipes or balancing checkbooks; both are regular activities that would not have been difficult in the past. They may make errors or it may take longer for them to complete the activity.
Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure — Alzheimer’s disease often impacts one’s ability to carry out daily tasks. Examples of these can be as simple as forgetting how to record a television show or the rules to a favorite game, to potentially more dangerous activities such as having trouble driving to a familiar location or forgetting the settings on a microwave, stove or oven.
Confusion with time or place — Dates and seasons can be lost on a person suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. The passage of time can also be a difficult concept to grasp; some people may not understand why something is not happening immediately. It is also common for someone with Alzheimer’s to forget where they are or how they got there.
Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships — Cataracts may be a major factor in someone starting to have difficulties with vision-oriented activities, such as reading, judging distance and determining color. These can impact driving capabilities, so be very diligent in looking for these changes.
New problems with words in speaking or writing — People with Alzheimer’s may have trouble finding the right words to explain what they are thinking or they may repeat themselves often, but problems with words can stretch beyond that as well. They may not know how to join a conversation, or once they are in a conversation, they may have trouble following it, and will change topics easily without much of a connection to the previous topic.
Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps — A common sign of Alzheimer’s disease is if someone misplaces things and cannot retrace their steps in order to find them. This may be because they simply don’t remember where something is, or because they may have accidentally put something back where it doesn’t belong, like trying to hang up the phone in the refrigerator. When they can’t find what they’re looking for, they may also accuse others of stealing it, as they don’t always realize that they have just forgotten.
Decreased or poor judgment — People with Alzheimer’s may start making bad decisions once in a while, such as giving large amounts of money to telemarketers. They may also start paying less and less attention to personal hygiene and will stop keeping themselves clean in the same ways that they did before.
Withdrawal from work or social activities — Due to the onset of Alzheimer’s, some people may start to feel weary of certain activities they used to find enjoyable: completing hobbies, keeping up with a favorite sports team, projects at work. They will also be reluctant to participate in work, family and other social obligations.
Changes in mood and personality — People who have Alzheimer’s may develop a very specific way of doing things and become very irritable when that routine is disrupted. They may get upset easily not only when they’re taken out of their comfort zone, but also when they’re around friends, family and other people with whom they were once familiar and comfortable. Confusion, suspicion, depression, anxiety and fear are common emotions tied to developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Anyone who notices these signs early in themselves or a loved one can help them receive the maximum benefit from available treatments, get help for themselves and their loved ones and have more time to plan for the future. It is important to schedule an appointment with a doctor right away to get the best possible care. People who detect Alzheimer’s early on are able to remain independent and know how to take care of themselves so that they can live a regular, healthy lifestyle for as long as possible.