It is quite normal for an aging loved one to forget things from time to time or even repeat stories that they’ve told you before. While these may be symptoms of getting older, how do you know that it’s not something more serious? There are some signs that you can look out for, and if you start to see them more and more, it may be time to seek Alzheimer’s specialist assistance.
Here are ten signs to look out for:
- Forgetfulness – Forgetting things is an unfortunate part of getting older, but if it starts to disrupt their life then it could be related to dementia. Your loved one might forget important events or start to repeat themselves more often.
- Cognitive issues – Someone with a memory-related illness starts to have trouble planning or solving problems. Things like remembering to pay monthly bills, or the inability to follow a familiar recipe, can be obvious signs that something is up.
- Difficulty performing daily tasks – Look out for signs that your loved one is struggling to perform ordinary tasks like using the microwave or TV, or if they’ve got lost driving in a familiar area. This may mean they will need specialist Alzheimer’s assistance.
- Confusion – People with Alzheimer’s disease frequently lose track of the passage of time; you may find that your loved one is confused about the time of year or even arrive a week late for an event. In some cases they might drive somewhere and then not know how they got there.
- Unbalanced or spatial perception is off – With aging comes vision deterioration, but with Alzheimer’s it can cause difficulty with balance or spacial relationships such as judging distance, determining colour or contrast.
- Trouble communicating – Someone with Alzheimer’s will struggle to follow or join a conversation. Their train of thought can also become very scattered; they might stop in the middle of telling a story, or join yours with a completely unrelated topic or forget the name of familiar objects.
- Losing things – Your loved one may start to lose things and have trouble retracing their footsteps to help relocate them themselves. You might find these things in odd places, such as car keys in the freezer or food in clothes cupboards.
- Laps in hygiene – People with Alzheimer’s start to pay less and less attention to personal hygiene. They might forget to bathe or brush their teeth, and not remember to make appointments for hair and nail care.
- Self-isolation – Your loved one may start to withdraw from others socially because they have difficulty communicating with others. Social activities become anxiety-inducing for them, and so they may prefer to stay at home.
- Mood changes – One of the signs that you may pick up quite quickly, especially if you are very close to your loved one, is a big change in their personality or moods. They may become easily upset due to being confused, suspicious, or anxious, in a way that is not normal for them.
If you see these signs in your loved one, then it is time to get a formal diagnosis and seek specialist Alzheimer’s assistance to care for them.
Professional diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease
A professional diagnosis will be needed to confirm if your loved one has Alzheimer’s. The same symptoms could be caused by other underlying conditions, so it is important to first rule them out. Your first port of call should be a doctor who is trained in brain conditions (a neurologist) or to treat older adults (geriatrician). They will be able to review your loved one’s medical history, medication history and assess their symptoms. It’s important that you accompany your loved one to these appointments, firstly so that they don’t feel overwhelmed but also so that the doctor gets an accurate account of their current state.
The doctor will carry out a number of tests to evaluate the following:
- Memory and cognitive skills
- Personality or behavioural changes
- Degree of memory or cognitive impairment
- Ability to function in daily life
- Cause of the symptoms
Your loved one may even be sent for additional tests such as brain-imaging or memory testing. All these evaluations will help determine if your loved one has Alzheimer’s or a dementia-related illness. They will also be able to set them up on a treatment plan that includes pharma- and non-pharmacological treatments. Your loved one may also require Alzheimer’s specialist assistance full-time in a specialised facility that caters to their unique requirements.