Memory loss that disrupts everyday life is not part of the normal aging process. It is a symptom of dementia, a gradual and progressive decline in memory, thinking, and reasoning skills. The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, a disorder that results in the loss of brain cells.
The Alzheimer Society, a national leader in the fight against Alzheimer’s, believes that it is critical for people with dementia and their families to receive information as early as possible.
To help family members and health care professionals recognize warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease, the Society has developed a checklist of common symptoms.
One of the most common early signs of dementia is forgetting recently learned information. While it is normal to forget appointments, names, or telephone numbers, those with dementia will forget such things more often and not remember them later.
Difficulty performing familiar tasks.
People with dementia often find it hard to complete everyday tasks that are so familiar we usually do not think about how to do them. A person with Alzheimer’s may not know the steps for preparing a meal, using a household appliance, or participating in a lifelong hobby.
Problems with language.
Everyone has trouble finding the right words sometimes, but a person with Alzheimer’s disease often forgets simple words, making his or her speech or writing hard to understand. If a person with Alzheimer’s is unable to find his or her toothbrush, for example, the individual may ask for “that thing for my mouth.”
Disorientation to time and place.
It’s normal to forget the day of the week or where you’re going. But people with Alzheimer’s disease can become lost on their own street, forget where they are and how they got there, and not know how to get back home.
Poor or decreased judgment.
No one has perfect judgment all the time. Those with Alzheimer’s may dress without regard to the weather, wearing several shirts or blouses on a warm day or very little clothing in cold weather. Individuals with dementia often show poor judgment about money, giving away large amounts of money to Tele-marketers or paying for home repairs or products they don’t need.
Problems with abstract thinking.
Balancing a checkbook may be hard when the task is more complicated than usual. Someone with Alzheimer’s disease could forget completely what the numbers are and what needs to be done with them.
Anyone can temporarily misplace a wallet or key. A person with Alzheimer’s disease may put things in unusual places: an iron in the freezer, a wristwatch in the sugar bowl, or a sandwich under the sofa.
Changes in mood or behavior.
Everyone can become sad or moody from time to time. Someone with Alzheimer’s disease can show rapid mood swings, from calm to tears to anger, for no apparent reason.
Changes in personality.
People’s personalities ordinarily change somewhat with age. But a person with Alzheimer’s disease can change a lot, becoming extremely confused, suspicious, fearful, or dependent on a family member.
Loss of initiative.
It’s normal to tire of housework, business activities, or social obligations at times. The person with Alzheimer’s disease may become very passive, sitting in front of the television for hours, sleeping more than usual, or not wanting to do usual activities.
For more information on Alzheimer’s Disease, please contact the Alzheimer Society of Canada www.alzheimer.ca
Source: Living Assistance Services, www.laservices.ca