By Tammy Westwood
Solvang Friendship House
As the executive director of Friendship House, every day I am around seniors living with Alzheimer’s disease and family members caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s is a brain disease that causes a slow decline in memory, thinking and reasoning skills. Memory loss that disrupts daily life may be a symptom of Alzheimer’s or other dementias.
In our community I often am asked, “How do you know if someone has Alzheimer’s?” According to the Alzheimer’s Association there are 10 warning signs and symptoms I would like to share with you.
Memory loss that disrupts daily life
One of the most common signs of Alzheimer’s disease, especially in the early stage, is forgetting recently learned information. Others include forgetting important dates or events, asking for the same information over and over, and increasingly needing to rely on memory aids or family members for things they used to handle on their own.
Challenges in planning or solving problems
Some people may experience changes in their ability to develop and follow a plan or work with numbers. They may have trouble following a familiar recipe or keeping track of monthly bills. They may have difficulty concentrating and take much longer to do things than they did before.
Difficulty with familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure
People with Alzheimer’s often find it hard to complete daily tasks. They may have trouble driving to a familiar location, managing a budget at work or remembering the rules of a favorite game.
Confusion with time or place
People with Alzheimer’s can lose track of dates, seasons and the passage of time. They may have trouble understanding something if it is not happening immediately. Sometimes they may forget where they are or how they got there.
Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
For some people, having vision problems is a sign of Alzheimer’s. They may have difficulty reading, judging distance and determining color or contrast, which may cause problems with driving.
New problems with words in speaking or writing
People with Alzheimer’s may have trouble following or joining a conversation. They may stop in the middle of a conversation and have no idea how to continue or they may repeat themselves. They may struggle with vocabulary, have problems finding the right word or call things by the wrong name (for example, calling a “watch” a “hand-clock”).
Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
People with Alzheimer’s disease may put things in unusual places. They may lose things and be unable to go back over their steps to find them again. Sometimes, they may accuse others of stealing. This may occur more frequently over time.
Decreased or poor judgment
People with Alzheimer’s may experience changes in judgment or decision-making. For example, they may give large amounts to telemarketers. They may pay less attention to grooming or keeping themselves clean.
Withdrawal from work or social activities
People with Alzheimer’s may start to remove themselves from hobbies, social activities, work projects or sports. They may have trouble keeping up with a favorite sports team or remembering how to complete a favorite hobby. They also may avoid being social because of the changes they have experienced.
Changes in mood and personality
The mood and personalities of people with Alzheimer’s can change. They can become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious. They may be easily upset at home, at work, with friends or in places where they are out of their comfort zone
If you or someone you care about is experiencing any of these 10 warning signs, please see a doctor to find the cause. Early diagnosis gives you a chance to seek treatment and plan for your future.