Choose the health content that’s right for you, and get it delivered right in your inbox.
You likely heard about the Alzheimer’s-related death of Bob Barker this summer: The television host was one of more than six million people in America affected by the progressive brain disease. Learn the common signs of this condition and discover what to do if a loved one begins experiencing the symptoms.
What is Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s disease is a medical condition that causes a slow decline in memory, thinking and reasoning skills. One of the most common signs of Alzheimer’s is regularly-disruptive memory loss, but it can also show up as impaired reasoning or judgment.
Many people use the terms dementia and Alzheimer’s disease interchangeably, but they’re not the same. Alzheimer’s is just one form of dementia, which refers to a group of conditions that affect at least two brain functions, such as memory loss and judgment.
While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, it can be helped by treatment — especially when it’s caught early. Knowing what to look for can help you get the support your loved one needs.
What are the Signs and Symptoms?
The Alzheimer’s Association shares these 10 signs of the disease:
- Memory Loss That Disrupts Daily Life
You may notice your loved one forgetting recently learned information, important dates or events and repeatedly asking the same questions.
- Challenges With Planning or Problem-Solving
Changes in attention span or problem-solving skills may indicate Alzheimer’s. Examples include having difficulty with numbers, finding it challenging to follow a familiar recipe, or having trouble keeping track of monthly bills.
- Difficulty Completing Familiar Tasks
If your loved one suddenly has trouble remembering how to get to a location they’ve frequented for years —like a grocery store, family member’s home or doctor’s appointment — it could be a sign of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Confusion With Time or Place
If your loved one is losing track of dates or seasons, forgetting how they’ve arrived at a location, or becoming confused about where they are, know these are common signs of Alzheimer’s.
- Trouble Understanding Visual Images and Spatial Relationships
This includes having trouble with balance, reading or judging distances — which may mean it is no longer safe for them to drive.
- New Problems With Words or Speaking
Pay attention to whether your loved one has trouble following or engaging in everyday conversations.
- Misplacing Things and Losing the Ability to Retrace Steps
If you notice your loved one is putting things in unusual places or even accusing others of stealing them, they might be having difficulty remembering and retracing their steps
- Trouble With Judgment
Examples may look like suddenly making unwise investments or losing interest in personal hygiene.
- Changes in Mood or Personality
Be aware of sudden changes in behavior or personality, like becoming confused, suspicious, restless, depressed, fearful or anxious. Your loved one may also cling to people or places that make them feel comfortable or have unexpected, inappropriate outbursts.
- Withdrawal From Activities
Take note if you notice a loved one is losing interest in their work, the people they love, holidays, favorite sports teams or attending social gatherings.
How Does the Disease Progress?
Most people with Alzheimer’s are diagnosed after age 65. However, the disease can develop at any age. We describe the progression of Alzheimer’s disease in stages, from mild (early-stage) to severe (late-stage). Symptoms, however, generally show up somewhere in between.
How Do I Get Help for My Loved One?
While there isn’t a cure for Alzheimer’s, there are treatments that can help. That’s why, when it comes to Alzheimer’s, knowing the signs of the disease — and detecting it early — can make a world of difference. You may not be certain what’s causing your loved one’s memory loss or mood swings, but if you notice changes that don’t go away or worsen, talk with their health care provider. They may ask questions and conduct tests or procedures to find out what’s behind the symptoms. They also may refer you to a neurologist for further assessment.
From in-home nursing to around-the-clock hospice care, our skilled and compassionate team is here to ensure your loved one gets the personal attention they need, where and when they need it. Learn about hospice care and home care services at AdventHealth.