Alzheimer's: Dr Chris discusses the early signs of condition
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Dementia is a syndrome, which means it is a group of related symptoms rather than one condition with a specific cause. It’s an umbrella term for Alzheimer’s disease (the most common cause of dementia), Vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia and more. While the symptoms vary ever so slightly from type to type, the warning signs are generally the same. Express.co.uk reveals the 10 most common warning signs of Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s disease accounts for somewhere between 60 and 80 percent of all dementia cases, so it’s useful to know the symptoms so you can catch the disease early.
According to the NHS, an accurate and timely diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease can give you the best chance to prepare and plan for the future, as well as receive any treatment or support that may help.
There’s no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but there is a medicine available to temporarily reduce the symptoms and there is support available to help someone with the condition and their family to cope with day to day life.
Concerned that you or someone else has Alzheimer’s? The Alzheimer’s Association has revealed the top 10 most common warning signs of early Alzheimer’s to look out for.
Memory loss that disrupts daily life
One of the most common signs of Alzheimer’s disease is memory loss, especially in the early stage. This is when you keep forgetting recently learned information, according to The Alzheimer’s Association
Other examples include forgetting important dates or events, asking the same questions over and over, and increasingly needing to rely on memory aids (e.g. reminder notes or electronic devices) or family members for things they used to handle on their own.
Sometimes forgetting names or appointments but remembering them later is normal as you age and not a sign of dementia.
Difficulty completing familiar tasks
People with Alzheimer’s often find it hard to complete daily tasks. For example, sometimes they may have trouble driving to a familiar location, organizing a grocery list or remembering the rules of a favourite game.
However, The Alzheimer’s Association pointed out that things like occasionally needing help to use microwave settings or to record a TV show are just linked to typical age-related change and not Alzheimer’s.
Challenges in planning or solving problems
Some people living with dementia may experience changes in their ability to develop and follow a plan or work with numbers.
The Alzheimer’s Association said: “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.”
Making occasional errors when managing finances or household bills is normal and not a sign of Alzheimer’s.
Confusion with time or place
People living with Alzheimer’s can lose track of dates, seasons and the passage of time.
The Alzheimer’s Association added: “They may have trouble understanding something if it is not happening immediately and sometimes they may forget where they are or how they got there.”
Don’t worry if you are doing things like getting confused about the day of the week but figuring it out later – this is just age-related change.
Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
For some people, having vision problems is a sign of Alzheimer’s.
The Alzheimer’s Association said: “This may lead to difficulty with balance or trouble reading. They may also have problems judging distance and determining colour or contrast, causing issues with driving.”
Don’t panic too much about vision changes related to things like cataracts, that’s normally just age-related change.
New problems with words in speaking or writing
People living with Alzheimer’s may have trouble following or joining a conversation. For example, The Alzheimer’s Association said they may stop in the middle of a conversation and have no idea how to continue or they may repeat themselves.
Or, they may struggle with vocabulary, have trouble naming a familiar object or use the wrong name (e.g., calling a “watch” a “hand-clock”).
Don’t work yourself too much about words though, it’s normal to have trouble finding the right word sometimes (especially as you age).
Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
A person living with Alzheimer’s disease may put things in unusual places.
The Alzheimer’s Association explained: “They may lose things and be unable to go back over their steps to find them again. He or she may accuse others of stealing, especially as the disease progresses.”
We all misplace things from time to time and have to retrace our steps to find them, but if this is a recurring problem it could be a sign of Alzheimer’s.
Decreased or poor judgment
Individuals may experience changes in judgment or decision-making.
The Alzheimer’s Association said: “For example, they may use poor judgment when dealing with money or pay less attention to grooming or keeping themselves clean.”
Making a bad decision or mistake once in a while, like neglecting to change the oil in the car, is not a sign of Alzheimer’s.
Withdrawal from work or social activities
A person living with Alzheimer’s disease may experience changes in the ability to hold or follow a conversation.
As a result, The Alzheimer’s Association said he or she may withdraw from hobbies, social activities or other engagements. They may also have trouble keeping up with a favourite team or activity.
However, feeling uninterested in familial or social obligations sometimes is normal as you age.
Changes in mood and personality
Individuals living with Alzheimer’s may experience mood and personality changes. They can become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious.
Or, as The Alzheimer’s Association points out, they may be easily upset at home, with friends or when out of their comfort zone.
Developing very specific ways of doing things and becoming irritable when a routine is disrupted, however, is normally typical age-related change.
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