June is Alzheimer’s Disease and Brain Health Month – a great time to increase awareness about the disease. Even though most everyone knows about Alzheimer’s disease not everyone understands it. We thought this would be a good time to tell you about the differences between Alzheimer’s disease and natural aging, and the most common signs and symptoms of the disease.
The blunt, sad truth of the matter is that Alzheimer’s disease is fatal. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the disease kills more people than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. It is a progressive brain disease that has no cure and it is much, much more than memory loss.
One of the most important things we can all do is learn the differences between the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and those that indicate natural, age-related memory loss:
- Alzheimer’s disease: Poor judgment and personality changes.
- Age-related memory loss: Making a bad decision once in awhile.
- Alzheimer’s disease: Not knowing the date or the season of the year.
- Age-related memory loss: Forgetting which day of the week it is and remembering it soon after.
- Alzheimer’s disease: Difficulty having a conversation or processing words.
- Age-related memory loss: Occasional difficulty retrieving the right word.
- Alzheimer’s disease: Placing things in the wrong place; keys in the refrigerator, ice cream in the cupboard.
- Age-related memory loss: Losing things from time to time.
Here are some of the most common symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease that you should be familiar with:
Alzheimer’s disease causes memory loss that disrupts daily life. Those with the disease will begin to forget recently learned information and recent conversations. They will forget dates and events they have known all their lives like birthdays and holidays. They will repeatedly ask the same question, seeking the same information within minutes.
Difficulty completing familiar tasks
This is one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease and is different from age-related memory loss. As we age we may forget where we put our keys. However, with Alzheimer’s disease, memory loss causes the person to forget how to do common everyday things like make coffee or start the car.
Alzheimer’s disease causes great confusion. Those who suffer from it will lose track of the passage of time and begin to think that they are in their childhood home or living in their high school years. They may not realize the date, month, season or year. Time becomes fluid and they cannot separate the past, present and future.
Language problems: Alzheimer’s disease steals language processing skills. Those with Alzheimer’s disease will have trouble participating in a conversation. When speaking they may stop in the middle of a sentence and be unable to continue. Eventually, Alzheimer’s patients become non-verbal.
People suffering with Alzheimer’s disease may exhibit behavioral or personality changes. They may become aggressive with frequent outbursts or become agitated easily. Paranoia is not uncommon, with people believing there are strangers in the house or that family members are stealing from them.
This is one of the most frequent telltale signs of Alzheimer’s disease. Many of us misplace our keys or can’t remember where we put an envelope. However, those with Alzheimer’s disease lose the ability to organize and remember connections between objects and their usual places. They may put the keys in the freezer or shoes in the basement. They may put towels in the bed or clothes in the garage.
These are all signs and symptoms of the brain damage incurred by Alzheimer’s disease. There is no way to remind the person of the right thing to do. There is no way for them to re-learn the right behavior. Alzheimer’s disease damages the brain permanently and once these skills have been lost they cannot be regained.
What can you do if a loved one suffers from Alzheimer’s disease? Make sure that he or she receives skilled care. In the early stages of the disease some medications can delay the onset of symptoms. Overall, the most important thing you can do is to comfort and reassure your loved one. Make them feel safe and loved. Alzheimer’s disease fills the sufferer with worry, anxiety and uncertainty. You can spend time with your loved one, tell him or her happy stories and share photos and picture books. They joy they feel with you will stay with them even after you leave, lifting their mood and giving them a feeling of happiness.
To learn more about how home care services can help care for your loved one, contact Family Matters In-Home Care for a free consultation. Our caregivers are experienced with dementia and Alzheimer’s care. They will spend time with your loved one, provide companionship, activities that are mentally stimulating, and will cook nutrition meals and do light housekeeping. Most importantly, our caregivers will give you peace of mind that your loved one is being cared for with the proper support for impaired cognition.