If your senior begins to experience memory loss and act in ways that disrupt the daily routine, these symptoms may indicate the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. When signs begin to appear, caregivers face increased challenges. A caregiver can feel overwhelmed and alone, and may even suffer from depression or anxiety. Knowing early signs of the disease can help you better care for your loved one and yourself.
Signs of Alzheimer’s disease
The Alzheimer’s Association defines Alzheimer’s as “a brain disease that causes a slow decline in memory, thinking, and reasoning skills.” Here are their top 10 warning signs.
1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life: Repeated questions, forgetting important dates, and a need to rely on memory aids to remember things.
2. Difficulty in planning or problem solving: Trouble following a recipe, paying monthly bills, etc.
3. Difficulty completing routine tasks: Difficulty driving to a familiar location or following the rules of a game.
4. Confusion with time or place: Trouble remembering the day of the week or how they got somewhere.
5. Judging spatial relationships: A loss of the ability to judge distances between objects, or the depth of, say, a chair. This can also be caused by cataracts.
6. Problems with words: Difficulty recalling a simple word or trouble following a conversation.
7. Misplacing things or an inability to retrace steps: Watch for a pattern, not a one-off instance.
8. Diminished judgment: Sudden lack of judgment with money or lack of attention to grooming.
9. Withdrawal: Sudden withdrawal from work, social activities, hobbies, etc.
10. Mood and personality changes: Signs of aggression, confusion, suspicion, etc.
Everyone has lapses in judgment and memory. The occasional lapse is normal, but as several signs exhibit more frequently, they can indicate early signs of Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s Affects the Caregiver, Too
When the signs of Alzheimer’s begin to appear, they can overwhelm you. “Research has shown that caregivers themselves often are at increased risk for depression and illness, especially if they do not receive adequate support from family, friends, and the community,” according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The root cause is stress. How many top 10 caregiver stress symptoms provided by Alzheimer’s Association apply to you?
1. Denial: You just know your senior is going to get better.
2. Anger: You’re angry with the person, the disease, and the lack of cure. “I’m going to scream if Mom [fill in the blank] one more time today.”
3. Social withdrawal: You have no desire or energy to socialize.
4. Anxiety: You’re worried about the future and what to do when you can no longer care for your senior.
5. Depression: You just don’t care anymore because your spirit has been broken.
6. Exhaustion: You don’t have the energy to complete routine tasks.
7. Inability to sleep: Worry keeps you awake at night.
8. Irritability: The slightest thing sets off a negative response and causes you to sulk.
9. Lack of concentration: You are so wrapped up in the demands of life that you forget things.
10. Health problems: It’s difficult to remember when you felt good.
Now more than ever, you need to make time for yourself. Ask for help from family and friends, and schedule a mani-pedi, see a movie, or just get out of the house. If your symptoms worsen, join a support group or talk to a professional. When you’re in good shape, you can provide better care to your senior.