Alzheimer’s disease develops gradually over the years, usually going unnoticed at first but eventually becoming impossible to ignore. What signs should families be alert to? The key is to look for major changes that interfere with everyday life.
Some examples of actions that might be taken by a senior with Alzheimer’s include:
- Forgetting things that are part of a well-established routine, and were once done without fail.
- Repeating questions.
- Arriving somewhere without any idea how they got there.
- Losing their way on a familiar route they take every day.
- Forgetting to turn the stove off.
- Leaving doors open.
- Forgetting to eat meals.
- Unusually poor hygiene that the person is not aware of.
- Placing objects in unusual places.
- The inability to remember even basic words, or speaking in such a way that’s hard to follow.
- Sudden mood swings for no particular reason, or becoming uncharacteristically suspicious or trusting.
- Lack of awareness of strange behavior.
Such behavior is serious and not to be confused with typical signs of aging, such as momentarily forgetting a piece of information or a name. Even otherwise healthy seniors may take longer to remember things than they used to. We all misplace items or forget important things from time to time—this is normal. Alzheimer’s is marked by the extreme frequency of these sort of incidents. It’s important to compare a loved one’s current behavior to how they were in the past. If someone has been on the more careless side throughout their life, a few odd forgetful incidents is less of a concern than if someone who was always highly conscientious shows the same behavior.
If you suspect a loved one has Alzheimer’s, have them evaluated by a competent specialist. The problem may turn out to be simple forgetfulness or even a lack of sleep, but get the input of an expert. The earlier the diagnosis, the better position you’ll be in to take steps to prevent a situation where your loved one or someone else gets hurt. You’ll also have the opportunity to get finances in order, obtain power of attorney, and plan for the care of your loved one.
It’s not easy to accept that a once vibrant and active person may have Alzheimer’s, but it happens to families every day. In fact, half of those over 85 have the disease. The progression of Alzheimer’s can be heartbreaking, but it is more manageable for seniors and their families with counseling and treatment.