“I think something is wrong with Mom.” I said quietly to my wife. And with that Christmas observation in 2000, the future was cast.
Recognizing the early signs of Alzheimer’s and dementia are crucial for taking care of parents, relatives and friends. And since we often only see them during the holidays, early November is a good time to review the signs.
I lived across the country and sometimes across oceans from my parents as they aged thus missing some obvious signs. But during a Christmas visit in 2000, I noticed my mother not being herself.
Once meticulous about her dress, taking care of the house and organizing events – she was blasé about all this – a dramatic change.
During drives around town she would ask over and over “Now, where are we going?” Something she never had done in the past. She was our families’ memory keeper yet now couldn’t remember her brother’s and sister’s names.
However, she was still herself. She laughed easily, made small talk, answered direct questions and carried on genuine conversations. When she got stuck, her husband – my dad – of over 50 years would quickly bail her out – and we noticed.
The Alzheimer’s Association has ten warning signs everyone should be aware of during these important holiday visits.
Have you noticed any of these warning signs?
Please list any concerns you have and take this sheet with you to the doctor.
Note: This list is for information only and not a substitute for a consultation with a qualified professional.
1. Memory changes that disrupt daily life. One of the most common signs of Alzheimer’s, especially in the early stages, is forgetting recently learned information. Others include forgetting important dates or events; asking for the same information over and over; relying on memory aides (e.g., reminder notes or electronic devices) or family members for things they used to handle on their own. What’s typical? Sometimes forgetting names or appointments, but remembering them later.
2. 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 or keeping track of monthly bills. They may have difficulty concentrating and take much longer to do things than they did before. What’s typical? Making occasional errors when balancing a checkbook.
3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure. People with Alzheimer’s often find it hard to complete daily tasks. Sometimes, people may have trouble driving to a familiar location, managing a budget at work or remembering the rules of a favorite game. What’s typical? Occasionally needing help to use the settings on a microwave or to record a television show.
4. 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. What’s typical? Getting confused about the day of the week but figuring it out later.
5. 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. In terms of perception, they may pass a mirror and think someone else is in the room. They may not recognize their own reflection. What’s typical? Vision changes related to cataracts.
6. 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 (e.g., calling a “watch” a “hand-clock”). What’s typical? Sometimes having trouble finding the right word.
7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps. A person 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. What’s typical? Misplacing things from time to time, such as a pair of glasses or the remote control.
8. Decreased or poor judgment. People with Alzheimer’s may experience changes in judgment or decision-making. For example, they may use poor judgment when dealing with money, giving large amounts to telemarketers. They may pay less attention to grooming or keeping themselves clean. What’s typical? Making a bad decision once in a while.
9. Withdrawal from work or social activities. A person 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 may also avoid being social because of the changes they have experienced. What’s typical? Sometimes feeling weary of work, family and social obligations.
10. 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. What’s typical? Developing very specific ways of doing things and becoming irritable when a routine is disrupted.
If you have questions about any of these warning signs, the Alzheimer’s Association recommends consulting a physician. Early provides the opportunities for ment, support and future planning.
For more information, go to www.alz.org/10signs or call 877-IS IT ALZ (877.474.8259).
This is an official publication of the Alzheimer’s Association but may be distributed by unaffiliated organizations or individuals. Such distribution does not constitute an endorsement of these parties or their activities by the Alzheimer’s Association.
Copyright 2009 Alzheimer’s Association. All rights reserved.