forgetfulness

It may be hard to know the difference between age-related changes and the first signs of Alzheimer’s disease. For example, if the person was never good at balancing a checkbook, struggling with this task is probably not a warning sign. But if their ability to balance a checkbook has recently changed, it is something to share with a doctor. To help, the Alzheimer’s Association has created this list of warning signs for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Individuals may experience one or more signs in different degrees. If you notice any of them, please see a doctor.

Memory loss that disrupts daily life.
One of the most common signs of Alzheimer’s, especially in the early stages, is forgetting recently learned information. Others include forgetting important dates or events; asking for the same information over and over; relying on memory aides (e.g., reminder notes or electronic devices) or family members for things they used to handle on their own.

What’s a typical age-related change?
Sometimes forgetting names or appointments, but remembering them later.

Challenges in planning or solving problems.
Some people may experience changes in their ability to develop and follow a plan or work with numbers. They may have trouble following a familiar recipe or keeping track of monthly bills. They may have difficulty concentrating and take much longer to do things than they did before.

What’s a typical age-related change?
Making occasional errors when balancing a checkbook.

Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure.
People with Alzheimer’s often find it hard to complete daily tasks. Sometimes, people may have trouble driving to a familiar location, managing a budget at work or remembering the rules of a favorite game.

What’s a typical age-related change?
Occasionally needing help to use the settings on a microwave or to record a television show.

Confusion with time or place.
People with Alzheimer’s can lose track of dates, seasons and the passage of time. They may have trouble understanding something if it is not happening immediately. Sometimes they may forget where they are or how they got there.

What’s a typical age-related change?
Getting confused about the day of the week but figuring it out later.

Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships.
For some people, having vision problems is a sign of Alzheimer’s. They may have difficulty reading, judging distance and determining color or contrast. In terms of perception, they may pass a mirror and think someone else is in the room. They may not realize they are the person in the mirror.

What’s a typical age-related change?
Vision changes related to cataracts.

New problems with words in speaking or writing.
People with Alzheimer’s may have trouble following or joining a conversation. They may stop in the middle of a conversation and have no idea how to continue or they may repeat themselves. They may struggle with vocabulary, have problems finding the right word or call things by the wrong name (e.g., calling a “watch” a “hand-clock”).

What’s a typical age-related change?
Sometimes having trouble finding the right word.

Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps.
A person with Alzheimer’s disease may put things in unusual places. They may lose things and be unable to go back over their steps to find them again. Sometimes, they may accuse others of stealing. This may occur more frequently over time.

What’s a typical age-related change?
Misplacing things from time to time, such as a pair of glasses or the remote control.

Withdrawal from work or social activities.
A person with Alzheimer’s may start to remove themselves from hobbies, social activities, work projects or sports. They may have trouble keeping up with a favorite sports team or remembering how to complete a favorite hobby. They may also avoid being social because of the changes they have experienced.

What’s a typical age-related change?
Sometimes feeling weary of work, family and social obligations.

Changes in mood and personality.
The mood and personalities of people with Alzheimer’s can change. They can become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious. They may be easily upset at home, at work, with friends or in places where they are out of their comfort zone.

What’s a typical age-related change?
Developing very specific ways of doing things and becoming irritable when a routine is disrupted.

 

If you’ve misplaced your keys, you’re probably just experiencing what millions of other Baby Boomers are: normal age-related memory difficulties. Here are some suggestions to help you with memory issues:

 

• Keep a routine
• Organize information (keep details in a calendar or day planner)
• Put items in the same spot (always put your keys in the same place by the door)
• Repeat information (repeat names when you meet people)
• Run through the alphabet in your head to help you remember a word
• Make associations (relate new information to things you already know)
• Involve your senses (if you are a visual learner, visualize an item)
• Teach others or tell them stories
• Get a full night’s sleep
• Learn more about what you can do to maintain your brain health and strengthen your memory

 

For better brain health, consider these options:

Challenge yourself: www.alzheimer.ca/en/aboutdementia/brain-health/challenge-yourself

Be socially active: www.alzheimer.ca/en/aboutdementia/brain-health/be-socially-active

Follow a healthy diet: www.alzheimer.ca/en/aboutdementia/brain-health/make-healthy-food-choices

Be physically active: www.alzheimer.ca/en/aboutdementia/brain-health/be-physically-active

Reduce stress: www.alzheimer.ca/en/aboutdementia/brain-health/reduce-stress

Protect your head: www.alzheimer.ca/en/aboutdementia/brain-health/protet-your-head

Make healthy lifestyle choices: www.alzheimer.ca/en/aboutdementia/brain-health/choose-wisely

 

If, on the other hand, you suspect a loved one may have Alzheimer’s disease (AD) or a related dementia, it is important to get a proper diagnosis from a licensed doctor.

Be aware that many illnesses can cause confusion or dementia, and in some cases, those illnesses could be treated. For example, a urinary tract infection may cause confusion, but it can be treated. By having a correct diagnosis from a doctor, the doctor can decide on the best treatment and the family can start planning for the future. While there is no cure for AD and some other dementias, a loved one diagnosed with AD can maximize the quality of his or her life by receiving an early diagnosis.

The first step in getting an accurate diagnosis for an individual is visiting with that person’s primary care physician. Below are some quick tips to help you prepare a loved one for a visit to the doctor.

• Keep a journal of physical or mental complaints, unusual behaviors, and questions. Record such things as: What symptoms have you noticed? When did the symptoms first appear? How have the symptoms changed over time? Be specific and include minor symptoms. Present this to the doctor before the visit, if possible.

• Make a list of current medications. Include both prescription and over-the-counter drugs— even vitamins, supplements, herbs, and eye drops. Be sure to include a list of any drug allergies, as well as a list of current and past health problems.

• Schedule the appointment. You may want to talk with a loved one about making an appointment. Discuss this topic with a loved one, unless you think it will be upsetting. Ask a loved one if you can go along to the visit.

Written  by Fritzi Gros-Daillon

For additional information:
http://www.alz.org/stl/documents/visiting_the_doctor.pdf
http://www.alzheimer.ca/en/About-dementia/What-is-dementia/Normal-aging-vs-dementia
http://www.alzheimer.ca/en/About-dementia/Brain-health
https://www.alz.org/national/documents/aa_brochure_10warnsigns.pdf
http://www.alz.org/mnnd/documents/aging_memory_loss_and_dementia_what_is_the_difference.pdf