Caring For Alzheimers Patients
Although theres no cure for Alzheimers disease, it may be possible to slow down its progression by taking medications, eating a healthy diet, increasing exercise, adopting good sleep habits, seeking active cognitive engagement, and maintaining social connections.
Eventually, however, it will be necessary to ensure your loved one is in a safe environment, possibly staying at home with an aide, moving in with relatives, or moving to a long-term nursing facility.
In time, she may have difficulty communicating, not recognize loved ones, be verbally or physically aggressive, become immobile and/or be unable to groom or feed herself.
Changes In Mood And Personality
Watch for behaviors that are out of character. Is the person acting confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious more than usual? Are they getting easily upset in situations that didn’t used to cause agitation, or at times when they’re out of their comfort zone?
These signs may indicate Alzheimer’s, or they may signal that something else is wrong, like depression or a bad reaction to medication. “That’s why it’s important to see a doctor for an evaluation as soon as possible,” Bednarczyk says. “The doctor can help figure out exactly what’s going on and how to help.”
It may, however, be difficult to talk to your loved one about these changes and convince them to see a doctor. If you need suggestions on how to approach your loved one or what to say, Bednarczyk offers expert advice in 6 Tips for Talking About Memory Loss.
New Problems With Words
People with Alzheimers 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 .
Whats a typical age-related change?Sometimes having trouble finding the right word.
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Withdrawal From Work Or Social Activities
A person with Alzheimers 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.
Whats a typical age-related change?Sometimes feeling weary of work, family and social obligations.
What Are The Stages Of Alzheimers
Alzheimers disease slowly gets worse over time. People with this disease progress at different rates and in several stages. Symptoms may get worse and then improve, but until an effective treatment for the disease itself is found, the persons ability will continue to decline over the course of the disease.
Early-stage Alzheimers is when a person begins to experience memory loss and other cognitive difficulties, though the symptoms appear gradual to the person and their family. Alzheimers disease is often diagnosed at this stage.
During middle-stage Alzheimers, damage occurs in areas of the brain that control language, reasoning, sensory processing, and conscious thought. People at this stage may have more confusion and trouble recognizing family and friends.
In late-stage Alzheimers, a person cannot communicate, is completely dependent on others for care, and may be in bed most or all the time as the body shuts down.
How long a person can live with Alzheimers disease varies. A person may live as few as three or four years if he or she is older than 80 when diagnosed, to as long as 10 or more years if the person is younger. Older adults with Alzheimers disease need to know their end-of-life care options and express their wishes to caregivers as early as possible after a diagnosis, before their thinking and speaking abilities fail.
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Problems With Sense Of Smell
Do you have trouble identifying scents like pineapple, paint thinner, or soap? Losing your sense of smell could be one of the earliest warning signs of Alzheimers. The region of the brain involved in sense of smell is one of the first to deteriorate in Alzheimers disease. Brain imaging research in the Journal of Alzheimers Disease shows that individuals with olfactory deficits have the same neurodegenerative changes seen in people with Alzheimers.
Conditions With Symptoms Similar To Dementia
Remember that many conditions have symptoms similar to dementia, so it is important not to assume that someone has dementia just because some of the above symptoms are present. Strokes, depression, excessive long-term alcohol consumption, infections, hormonal disorders, nutritional deficiencies and brain tumours can all cause dementia-like symptoms. Many of these conditions can be treated.
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Warning Signs Of Alzheimer’s
Memory often changes as people grow older. Some people notice changes in themselves before anyone else does. For other people, friends and family are the first to see changes in memory, behavior, or abilities. Memory loss that disrupts daily life is not a typical part of aging. People with one or more of these 10 warning signs should see a doctor to find the cause. Early diagnosis gives them a chance to seek treatment and plan for the future.
1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life: forgetting events, repeating yourself or relying on more aids to help you remember .
2.Challenges in planning or solving problems: having trouble paying bills or cooking recipes you have used for years.
3.Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work, or at leisure: having problems with cooking, driving places, using a cell phone, or shopping.
4.Confusion with time or place: having trouble understanding an event that is happening later, or losing track of dates.
5.Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relations: having more difficulty with balance or judging distance, tripping over things at home, or spilling or dropping things more often.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Alzheimers Association have created the Healthy Brain Initiatives State and Local Public Health Partnerships to Address Dementia: The 2018-2023 Road Map.
8. being a victim of a scam, not managing money well, paying less attention to hygiene, or having trouble taking care of a pet.
Guard Against Financial Abuse And Fraud
People with Alzheimers may be victims of financial abuse or scams by dishonest people. Sometimes, the person behind the scam is a friend or family member. Telephone, email, or in-person scams can take many forms, such as:
- Identity theft
- Phony offers of prizes or home or auto repairs
- Insurance scams
- Health scams such as ads for unproven memory aids
Look for signs that the person with Alzheimers may be a victim of financial abuse or fraud:
- There are signatures on checks or other papers dont look like the persons signature.
- The persons will has been changed without permission.
- The persons home is sold, and he or she did not agree to sell it.
- The person has signed legal papers without knowing what the papers mean.
- Things that belong to you or the person with Alzheimers, such as clothes or jewelry, are missing from the home.
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Here Are The 35 Early Signs Of Alzheimers Disease
- Elevated cholesterol levels
Other Mental Health Problems
Are you struggling with ADD/ADHD, bipolar disorder, or other mental health issues? A wealth of research shows that psychiatric disorders increase the risk of memory problems. For example, findings from a 2019 study show that adults with ADD/ADHD are at more than 3 times the risk of developing dementia, and a 2017 study shows that bipolar disorder significantly increases the risk in older adults. Other conditions that elevate the risk for cognitive decline include posttraumatic stress disorder , chronic stress, and schizophrenia.
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What Is The Difference Between Dementia And Alzheimers Disease
Dementia is currently ranked as the seventh leading cause of death and has been cited as one of the major causes of disability and dependency in older adults.
Answer From Jonathan Graff-Radford, M.D. Mayo Clinic
These terms are often used interchangeably, but they actually have different meanings. Dementia is not a specific disease. Its an umbrella term that describes a wide range of symptoms. These symptoms affect peoples ability to perform everyday activities on their own. Common symptoms of dementia include:
- A decline in memory
Normal, no obvious signs, although brain changes may be occurring
Stage 2. Very mild
No noticeable symptoms different to normal ageing. Brain imaging may reveal plaques or degeneration.
Stage 3. Mild
Mild cognitive deficits increased forgetfulness or disorientation, difficulty finding words. Loved ones begin to notice a decline.
Stage 4. Moderate
The memory of recent events is affected difficulty with complex tasks and managing personal affairs may be in denial or withdrawn from the family. The decline is obvious to a doctor. Family and friends notice symptoms.
Stage 5. Moderately severe
Major memory lapses, including significant life events needs help with daily activities such as dressing or preparing meals can no longer
manage personal affairs.
Stage 6. Severe
Stage 7. Very severe
Full-time care is needed loss of speech requires assistance with all daily activities, including eating, bathing, toileting may lose the ability to walk.
Is Dementia A Normal Part Of Ageing
The short answer is no! Most older adults live their entire lives without developing dementia.
In the Modern Age, dementia as a recognised clinical diagnosis was initially accepted as a medical term in 1797 by Philippe Pinel , a doctor in France.
The normal ageing process includes the weakening of muscles and bones, stiffening of joints, clogging of arteries and blood vessels, and some age-related memory changes that may show as:
- Struggling to find a word but remembering it later
- Forgetting the most recent events
- Forgetting the name of an acquaintance
- Occasionally misplacing car keys or objects
Normal ageing recalls knowledge and experiences built over years, long-term memories, and the ability to speak and write language/s spoken fluently would remain intact.
You Can’t Seem To Problem Solve Or Use Good Judgment
There are several red flags to look out for within this category, including trouble completing tasks, problem-solving, and displaying poor judgment. According to Dr. Paulson, our brains have to process a range of information in order to productively move through our day-to-day lives. The degeneration brought on by early Alzheimers can make something as simple as choosing what to order for lunch a complicated decision.
People in early stages of the disease may show other signs of cognitive deterioration such as being unable to follow directions or recipes, making serious financial errors, or struggling to maintain a healthy hygiene routine, per the Alzheimers Association.
You’re Withdrawing From Your Social Life
Did you used to be the life of every partybut now you’re staying home more and more often from social gatherings? You could be experiencing a normal decrease in energy…or it could be an early warning sign of Alzheimers.
Dr. Paulson says when brain degeneration makes it hard to remember commitments, participate in conversations, or engage fully in social events, many people begin to withdraw from these activities. Sometimes this is a symptom of depression , but either way its important to seek help if someones behavior seems out of character for them.
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Signs And Symptoms Of Dementia
Dementia is a generalised term its symptoms can vary widely from person to person based on the clinical diagnosis. People with suspected dementia who require diagnosis generally have problems with:
- Reasoning, judgement, and problem solving
- Visual perception beyond typical age-related changes in vision
Symptoms Of Mild Cognitive Impairment
Some people have a condition called mild cognitive impairment, or MCI. It can be an early sign of Alzheimers. But, not everyone with MCI will develop Alzheimers disease. People with MCI can still take care of themselves and do their normal activities. MCI memory problems may include:
- Losing things often
- Forgetting to go to events or appointments
- Having more trouble coming up with words than other people the same age
Learn more about Alzheimer’s disease from MedlinePlus.
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What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Alzheimers
Memory problems are often one of the first signs of Alzheimers. Symptoms vary from person to person, and may include problems with:
- Word-finding, or having more trouble coming up with words than other people the same age.
- Vision and spatial issues, like awareness of the space around them.
- Impaired reasoning or judgment, which can impact decisions.
Other symptoms may be changes in the persons behavior, including:
- Taking longer to complete normal daily tasks.
- Repeating questions.
- Trouble handling money and paying bills.
- Wandering and getting lost.
- Losing things or misplacing them in odd places.
- Mood and personality changes.
- Increased anxiety and/or aggression.
As The Disease Gets Worse
Alzheimers progresses over time, but the speed of change varies between people. As Alzheimers progresses, symptoms may include:
- Memory and thinking skills. People will find that their ability to remember, think and make decisions gets worse.
- Communication. Speaking and understanding people becomes more difficult.
- Recognition. People may have difficulty recognising household objects or familiar faces.
- Day-to-day tasks. Such as using a TV remote control, phone or using the kettle become harder.
- Sleeping. Changes to sleep patterns often occur, such as waking frequently during the night.
- Behaviour. Some people become sad, depressed, or frustrated about the challenges they face. Anxiety is also common, and people may become fearful or suspicious.
- Physical changes. People may have problems walking, be unsteady on their feet, find swallowing food more difficult or have seizures.
- Hallucinations and delusions. People may experience hallucinations, where they see or hear things that arent there. Others may believe things to be true that havent actually happened, known as delusions.
- Care. People gradually require more help with daily activities like dressing, eating, and using the toilet.
- Sundowning. People with Alzheimers can experience increased confusion and anxiety during the evening and at night. This is called sundowning.
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What Causes Dementia
In essence, dementia is caused by damage to the nerve cells in your brain.
But dementia is not one single condition. Its essentially an umbrella term that covers a wide range of cognitive disorders. This includes Alzheimers disease, which accounts for 60 to 80 percent of cases, according to the Alzheimers Association.
Damage to nerve cells in the brain can have many causes, including but not limited to:
- the accumulation of specific types of proteins in the brain
- lack of blood flow to the brain
- trauma to the head
When To See A Gp
If you’re worried about your memory or think you may have dementia, it’s a good idea to see a GP.
If you’re worried about someone else’s memory problems, encourage them to make an appointment and perhaps suggest that you go along with them.
Memory problems are not just caused by dementia they can also be caused by depression, stress, medicines or other health problems.
A GP can carry out some simple checks to try to find out what the cause may be, and they can refer you to a specialist for more tests if necessary.
Read more about diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease.
Page last reviewed: 05 July 2021 Next review due: 05 July 2024
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Misplacing Things & Losing The Ability To Retrace Steps
A person with Alzheimers 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.
Whats a typical age-related change?Misplacing things from time to time and retracing steps to find them.
But Remember Alzheimers Disease Isnt Common In Young People
And if you need help determining the next steps for yourself or a loved one, the Alzheimers Association offers a 24/7 helpline, patient and caregiver resources, and a directory of local support groups for people affected by the disease.
Recommended Reading: Alzheimer’s And Dementia Foundation
Trouble Understanding Visual Images And Spatial Relationships
Vision problems can be a sign of Alzheimer’s, including difficulty reading, judging distances, and determining color or contrast.
For instance, your loved one falls down the stairs or off of a curb because they misjudge the height of the step-down. Some people with Alzheimer’s also don’t recognize their own reflections.
Why You Should Make An Appointment Now
The sooner you know, the better. Starting treatment may help relieve symptoms and keep you independent longer.
It also helps you plan better. You can work out living arrangements, make financial and legal decisions, and build up your support network.
Alzheimerâs Association: â10 Early Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s,â âDiagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia,â âWhat Is Dementia?â
University of California San Francisco: âAlzheimer’s Disease Signs and Symptoms.â
National Institute on Aging: “Forgetfulness: Knowing When To Ask For Help.”
American Psychological Association: “Aging: When should I be concerned about a senior’s forgetfulness?”
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