What Are the Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease?
Our memory can change quite a bit as we get older. It’s a natural part of the aging process that almost everyone will experience to some degree. But for many mature adults, various forms of dementia – including Alzheimer’s disease – can greatly impair their overall cognitive function and memory. Alzheimer’s causes memory impairment above and beyond normal changes that affect an individual’s daily life. The top signs of Alzheimer’s disease include:
- Memory loss
- Impaired problem-solving skills
- Poor judgment
- Mood changes
- Loss of spontaneity
- Problems communicating
- Withdrawing from social activities
- Vision problems
- Difficulty recognizing family and friends
- Physical problems such as trouble with fine motor skills and walking
These symptoms may not show up right away or on a prescribed timeline. Scientists have found that the condition can start developing in the brain a decade or more before common memory issues begin to appear. For most people with Alzheimer’s, the first early warning signs begin in their mid-60s as part of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. For those with the early-onset variety, warning signs can begin anywhere between their 30s and 60s.
Understanding the Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease
Over time, those with Alzheimer’s disease will go through several different stages: preclinical, mild or early-stage, moderate and severe or late-stage. While early warning signs vary from person to person, worsening cognitive issues are one of the biggest indicators that someone may have Alzheimer’s. These issues can include impaired judgment or reasoning, difficulty finding words and vision or spatial problems. As the condition progresses, individuals will continue to experience more significant memory loss and additional cognitive issues.
Early-Stage Alzheimer’s Symptoms
In the mild or early stage of the disease, most people appear to be relatively healthy but may experience memory problems that slowly worsen. Individuals may start to notice these issues for themselves first or have their close friends and family members express concern before they realize there’s a problem. Whatever the case, this realization is often gradual, with warning signs that include:
Everyone forgets where they place their keys or whether they watered the plants this week, but if someone experiences memory loss that often disrupts their daily life, there could be a bigger issue at hand. Some examples include forgetting special events like birthdays and holidays, relying on memory aids like sticky notes, or repeating themselves often in conversation.
Impaired Problem-Solving Skills
Individuals with Alzheimer’s often have trouble taking care of day-to-day problems around the home. If someone has difficulty solving common problems such as paying bills on time or finishing a familiar recipe, this could be an indication that something is wrong.
When someone has difficulty managing their finances, forgetting to keep up with their regular hygiene routine, having trouble caring for a beloved pet, or falling victim to common scams – they are likely experiencing decreased or poor judgment.
Alzheimer’s affects the brain’s chemistry, meaning it can cause mood swings and personality changes. In other cases, individuals with Alzheimer’s may notice they have a problem and experience mood changes as they cope with what they’re experiencing.
Loss of Spontaneity
Everyone has varying degrees of spontaneity, but those with Alzheimer’s typically lean far in favor of routines versus spontaneity because it’s more familiar and comfortable. You’ll notice this most often as a change in a relative or friend’s usual reactions to a new activity or event that isn’t planned. Would they normally go to a movie the next day? Or do they now need at least a week to prepare?
Moderate Alzheimer’s Symptoms
In Alzheimer’s early stages, many individuals can happily live alone, with minor support from friends and family. As the disease progresses into the later stages, individuals typically need a higher level of support as they’ll be more prone to wandering, forgetting important daily care tasks, and not recognizing the people in their lives.
Supporting an individual with moderate stage Alzheimer’s can be a hard task to keep up with for families, making this the time when many people start thinking more seriously about dedicated memory care services. This is in part due to more difficult symptoms, including:
Problems Communicating with Others
It is very common for those with moderate Alzheimer’s to have problems communicating with speech and in writing. You may notice that it’s difficult for them to find the right word in a conversation. Instead of saying “phone”, they may say “that thing you use to talk to people who are far away.”
Withdrawing from Social Activities
Many individuals with Alzheimer’s are easily confused about time, place, and location. That causes them to become fearful of leaving home and spending time with others, even for activities they used to take great joy in like going to church or catching a football game.
Vision issues affect people of all ages, but if you are having a problem judging distance or keep tripping over things in your home, something bigger could be affecting your sight. Increased difficulty with spatial awareness is a common symptom for those with moderate Alzheimer’s. They may also have problems deciphering visual images and begin dropping or spilling things more often.
Difficulty Recognizing Family and Friends
This symptom can be quite difficult for those with Alzheimer’s, as well as their close friends and family members. As time passes, you may find that your relative knows the people around them but can’t place their name or relation. In other situations, they may not recognize anyone and become fearful of their presence. Both scenarios can confuse everyone involved and often lead to mood swings or outbursts of anger.
Severe Alzheimer’s Symptoms
In the severe stage of the disease, individuals may become completely dependent on others for their care. At this stage, symptoms often include:
- Weight loss
- Increased sleeping
- Inability to communicate
- Loss of bladder and bowel control
- Difficulty swallowing
Alzheimer’s Care at The Sterling Aventura
Alzheimer’s is a highly variable disease that often looks different in different people. Many individuals experience the above symptoms, as well as other issues such as confusion, depression, and trouble controlling their physical movements. Pay attention to the symptoms you see in friends and relatives. In the early stage, consistent or worsening signals are your best early warning signs and can help you seek a diagnosis, as well as the best care, early on.
While there is currently no cure for the disease, there are Alzheimer’s support options available that can maximize each individual’s abilities, helping them lead stronger lives. At The Sterling Aventura’s memory care community, we are dedicated to providing the highest quality of care and treatment for residents with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Interested in learning more about our memory care services? Call our friendly experts today at (305) 918-0000 or contact us online for more information.
For guidance on how to find the best memory care community for your unique situation, download our guide to finding the right memory care community.