Rita tells us about the ten tell-tale signs of Alzhemier’s, and what to do in such a case, in the weekly column, exclusively in Different Truths.
Are you worried about your mental sharpness? Or maybe that of a loved one’s?
Mild forgetfulness can be a normal part of aging. If you have trouble remembering someone’s name but it comes to you later, that’s not a serious memory problem. But if memory problems are seriously affecting your daily life, they could be early signs of Alzheimer’s disease. While the number of symptoms you have and how strong they are may vary, it’s important to identify these early signs and not ignore them as part of the aging process.
- Memory Loss
While forgetting names or appointments at times, but remembering them later is a normal age-related change, forgetting recently learned information may be an early sign of Alzheimer’s. Others include forgetting important dates or events and asking for the same information over and over. If you or a loved one increasingly needs to rely heavily on memory aids like post-it notes or reminders on your smart phone, you might be displaying a classic early sign of Alzheimer’s.
- Trouble Planning and Problem Solving
It’s normal for an elderly person to make occasional errors when balancing a cheque book, but if you or a loved one increasingly finds it hard to concentrate on detailed tasks, especially if they involve numbers, or finds it difficult to follow a recipe they have used many times, it might be an early sign of Alzheimer’s.
- Daily Tasks are a Challenge
It is part of the normal aging process to occasionally need help to use the settings on a microwave or to record a television show. But if loved one finds it hard to complete daily tasks at home and at work, has trouble driving to a familiar location, or forgets the rules of his favourite game, he might be displaying early signs of Alzheimer’s.
- Times and Places are Confusing
Some elderly people may get confused about the day of the week but figures it out later. That is a typical age related change. However, when an elderly person cannot fully grasp something that’s not happening immediately or forgets where he is or how he got there, he should consult a doctor.
- Changes in Vision
Many elderly people experience vision changes due to cataract, but for some, having vision problems may a sign of Alzheimer’s. If you or a loved one is finding it harder to read the words on a page, having trouble judging distance, or finding it difficult to tell colours apart, it is important to see a doctor immediately.
- Words and Conversations are Frustrating
While trouble finding the right word occasionally is a fallout of aging, people showing early signs of 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, for example, calling a “watch” a “hand-clock.”
- Misplacing and Losing Things
It’s normal for everyone to misplace things from time to time, but one can usually retrace one’s steps to find them again. A person with Alzheimer’s disease may put things in unusual places, like placing their watch in the refrigerator. They may lose things and be unable to go back over their steps to find them again. Sometimes, they may accuse others of taking their things or even stealing. This begins to occur more frequently over time.
- Lapse in Judgement
We all make bad judgements once in a while, but people with Alzheimer’s may experience changes in judgment or decision-making. If a loved one has been making poor financial decisions lately and giving away large amounts to people he normally wouldn’t, he might be displaying an early sign of Alzheimer’s. Alternately, someone with Alzheimer’s may be paying increasingly less attention to grooming and hygiene.
- Social Withdrawal
Feeling weary of work, family and social obligations at times is something everyone can relate to. However, a person displaying early symptoms of Alzheimer’s may start to remove themselves from hobbies, social activities, work projects or sports. They may have trouble keeping up with a favourite sports team or remembering how to complete a favourite hobby. They may also avoid social activities because of the changes they have experienced and may find themselves watching television and sleeping more than usual.
- Mood and Personality Changes
Developing specific ways of doing things and becoming irritable when a routine is disrupted is a normal part of aging. But if an elderly person starts to display a change in personality and tends to get upset more easily when out of his comfort zone and feels depressed, scared, anxious or suspicious of people, it is imperative to see a doctor.
Seeing the Doctor
If you notice any of the 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s in yourself or someone you know, don’t ignore them. Schedule an appointment with your doctor.
After evaluating your physical and mental health and doing necessary tests, the doctor may refer you to someone who specialises in Alzheimer’s, like a neurologist (a doctor who specialises in treating the brain and nervous system), psychiatrist, psychologist, or geriatrician (a doctor who specialises in treating older people).
With early detection, you can get the maximum benefit from available treatments. You can explore treatments that may provide some relief of symptoms and help you maintain a level of independence longer.
Photos from the internet.
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Rita Bhattacharjee is a communications consultant with extensive experience in managing corporate and internal communications for companies across diverse industries, including non-profit organizations. She is the co-founder of Mission Arogya and Arogya HomeCare and has recently relocated from the US to India to channel her skills towards social entrepreneurship to increase awareness and reduce disparity in public health. She also writes poetry, some of which have been published in reputed international journals.