We all misplace things from time to time. Our cell phone. The car keys. Our favorite pair of sneakers. Some of us aren’t great at remembering names of new acquaintances, even when we recognize their faces. It’s typically not anything to worry about. When memory loss begins to impact daily life, however, it might be due to more than just a busy lifestyle—it might be a sign of something more serious.
Memory loss that impairs a person’s ability to carry on a conversation or stick to their daily routine may be a red flag for an infection, a vitamin deficiency, thyroid problems, or Alzheimer’s disease. As we lend our voice to the National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month effort, here’s what we hope older adults and their loved ones will remember.
How Common Is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, accounting for as many as 80% of all cases. It is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 5 million people in this country have Alzheimer’s. That number is expected to reach 14 million by 2050.
While many people associate Alzheimer’s disease with forgetfulness, there are a variety of other symptoms of the disease that aren’t as well known. If you are a caregiver or the adult child of a senior, it’s helpful to learn what those are.
Recognizing the Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease
- Memory loss: This symptom of Alzheimer’s is widely known. An adult with the disease will initially have difficulty recalling information or names they’ve learned most recently. It could be the name of a new pastor at church or the date of their next dentist appointment. You may find yourself answering the same questions repeatedly in a conversation.
- Change in disposition: If an always gregarious senior has become ill-tempered or overly suspicious, it’s a change that should probably be discussed with their health care provider. It might just be they are struggling with a difficult issue in their life, but a change in disposition is sometimes an early sign of Alzheimer’s.
- Communication problems: Another change that is common in the earlier stages of Alzheimer’s is difficulty communicating. A loss of verbal skills or problems with written communication are two examples. Others include calling objects by the wrong name and difficulty maintaining a conversation.
- Mistakes with finances: This red flag is common but often missed. A senior with undiagnosed Alzheimer’s might forget to pay some bills but pay others multiple times. They could also fall victim to a scam or make purchases for expensive items they don’t need.
- Self-isolating: When someone first begins to suspect a problem, they may not want to admit it. But embarrassment or the fear of being “discovered” might cause them to self-isolate. They may stop going to religious services or resign from a favorite volunteer project in an effort to keep loved ones from finding out.
- Getting lost: A senior driver who has Alzheimer’s disease might become lost going to or coming from familiar destinations. If you notice a loved one’s trip to the post office took longer than usual or they seem a little flustered after an outing to the grocery store, you might want to have a gentle discussion about it.
Accepting that a senior family member may have Alzheimer’s disease, or another type of dementia can be difficult. It’s one reason an adult child might delay talking about it with a parent. While the problem may be caused by another medical condition that mimics Alzheimer’s, such as a urinary tract infection, it’s important to share your observations with the senior and their doctor.
Memory Care Communities Promote the Best Quality of Life
A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s doesn’t mean you won’t be able to enjoy time with your family elder any longer. In fact, Clearwater Living’s Clearbrook Memory Care neighborhoods are designed to allow residents to live their best lives, and to include loved ones every step of the way.
Call the Clearwater community nearest you to learn how our memory care program fosters self-esteem and independence in adults with Alzheimer’s.