There is much more behind Alzheimer’s disease than memory loss — it is a debilitating disease that affects not only the individual, but also the family who cares for them. Over 27% of Americans have a family member with Alzheimer’s disease. And every 70 seconds another person develops the disease. It is not surprising that Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States and the 5th leading cause of death for those aged 65 and older.
Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s presents special challenges. The Alzheimer’s association reports that 40% of these caregivers suffer a “high” level of emotional stress and it can actually shorten a caregiver’s life by up to eight years! In fact, the economic value of unpaid care provided to those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias totaled $202.6 billion in 2010.
This week marks Alzheimer’s Awareness Week worldwide. By identifying the early warning signs of Alzheimer’s, one can slow the progression of the disease.
Here are the 10 early warning signs of Alzheimer’s:
1. Memory loss that affects daily life – This can be from forgetting recently learned information, to forgetting important dates or events, and asking for the same information over and over.
2. Challenges in planning or solving problems – They may have difficulty concentrating and take much longer to do things than they did before.
3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure – Often find it hard to complete daily tasks.
4. Confusion with time or place – They may lose track of dates, seasons, and the passage of time. They may forget where they are or how they got there.
5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships – Vision problems, difficulty reading, judging distance and determining color or contrasts are all signs of Alzheimer’s.
6. New problems with words in speaking or writing – They may stop in the middle of a conversation and have no idea how to continue or they may repeat themselves. They may also struggle with vocabulary, like calling things by the wrong name.
7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps – They may put things in unusual places, or they may lose things and be unable to go back over their steps to find them again. This will occur more frequently over time.
8. Decreased or poor judgment –They pay less attention to grooming or keeping themselves clean. Or may use poor judgment when dealing with money.
9. Withdrawal from work or social activities – They may start to remove themselves from hobbies, social activities, work projects or sports.
10. Changes in mood and personality – They can become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious. They can be easily upset when out of their comfort zone.
Every individual may experience one or more of these signs in different degrees. If they occur more frequently and disrupt daily life, visit a doctor. Although there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, early detection can reduce progression of the disease and treatment can help with both cognitive and behavioral symptoms.