Diagnosing Memory Loss: Noticing the Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease
Certain types of memory loss are typical with aging. When there is no underlying medical condition present to account for age-related memory loss, it is known as Age-Associated Memory Impairment. But when does forgetfulness indicate that something more serious could be occurring?
While June is Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month, caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease can be a full-time job. Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common type of dementia among older adults, and is characterized by an impairment of memory. Eventually, disruptions of everyday life such as reasoning, planning, language, and perception happen as well. Those over 50 who get confused and easily forget things don’t necessarily have dementia, that’s why it is important to study and recognize the symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease
With normal aging, not being able to remember a conversation or an event that may have taken place a year ago is not atypical. With Alzheimer’s, the symptoms can be divided into cognitive, such as language difficulties, and non-cognitive, like mood swings, delusions, and behavioral changes.
There are two types of AD, early-onset and late-onset. Early-onset is typically diagnosed when someone is in their 40s and 50s. This type is rare, and usually occurs when there is a genetic factor, such as Down Syndrome or if Familial Alzheimer’s disease runs in the family. Late-onset is the most common form of the disease, occurring in people aged 65 and older.
The acceleration of symptoms is case-by-case. At first mild confusion may be the only manifestation of the disease. Look for problems with the ability to handle tasks, such as paying bills or balancing a checkbook. As the disease progresses, these symptoms will become more noticeable to family members, but not necessarily the person experiencing the issues.
Symptoms may include:
- Changes in personality and behavior such as depression, distrust, and irritability
- Sleep habit changes with signs of depression
- Memory loss, like getting lost in familiar places, and having the inability to name objects or family members
- Unable to recognize or work with numbers
- Making poor judgement calls and the inability to perform routine tasks such as bathing
A late progression of the disease brings the most obvious symptoms to the most basic skillsets, such as the ability to read, engage in conversation, or enjoy old hobbies.
Helping a Loved One With Early to Late-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease
There is no cure for Alzheimer’s, but medications and management strategies may temporarily improve symptoms. Helping your loved one foster their ability for their most basic skills, such as listening to music they love, can help maintain quality of life.
Here are other steps you can take once a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or one of the dementia stages has been given:
- Learn to cope behaviorally, practice patience to help mitigate the frustrations your loved one feels
- Develop and stick to a routine, keep items in the same spots around the home
- Ask simple questions to help your loved one not feel overwhelmed
- Keep an eye on finances and bills to make sure things don’t fall behind
If you feel that your memory or that of a loved one is not what it used to be, and signs of Alzheimer’s are present, consult with a physician and ask for a complete evaluation. By speaking to a physician, a presumptive diagnosis can be made, through neurological testing and brain imaging. This way, treatment can begin, as well as care provided to assist based on the outcome.
Need more information on dealing with a loved one with Alzheimer’s?
- Local Support Groups – http://www.alzmassnh.org/support-groups/find-a-support-group/
- Local Florida Treatment Resources – http://1floridaadrc.org/
- Nation Alzheimer’s Association – https://www.alz.org/
- Additional Resources