Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia in the United States, with more than 3 million active cases and growing. It is most commonly seen in patients over the age of 60, but Alzheimer’s has been seen in patients as young as 19 years old. While there is no cure, there has been a lot of progress over the years in pinpointing the causes and effects of Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s is often symptomless for the first few years, but it can rapidly disrupt memory and other important mental functions. The following symptoms could indicate the need for a follow up with your loved one’s primary care physician, because an early diagnosis and treatment can make all the difference for your loved one’s future.
1. Reduced Interest in Hobbies
If your loved one is experiencing a decreased interest in their hobbies, first look for outside causes. For example, a death or other recent loss. When dealing with emotional stress or pain, it can sometimes lead to decreased activity. If there are no other causes, it could indicate that there is something else going on. Make sure to keep an eye on your loved one and schedule a doctor’s visit if something feels off about their interest in their hobbies.
2. Difficulty Learning
Difficulty learning can affect all of us when we are older, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that dementia is involved. What could be an early sign of Alzheimer’s, however, is a change in your loved one’s ability to learn. When you try to show them new things, make sure you pay attention to how they deal with the process of learning. If they seem to be having more difficulty than normal, be prepared to react accordingly.
3. Bad Decisions and Safety Concerns
If your loved one has been exhibiting poor judgment or carelessness toward safety, make sure to take note. We all sometimes make poor decisions, but if it becomes a pattern or if your loved one starts behaving out of character it may mean something else is going on. Make sure to watch them closely as they go about their day. When they are driving, are they paying attention to the road? Have they made any decisions that are out of character for them? These kinds of things may mean that a check up is in order.
4. Repetition and Forgetfulness
Everyone forgets things every once in awhile. It becomes more common as we age. If your loved one has started forgetting things more often, or repeating what they have told you before, it may mean something bigger is happening. Also to consider is the severity of the event that they have forgotten. For instance, forgetting about something that occurs infrequently may not be concerning as forgetting to do something that they normally do every day.
5. Confusion about Money and Finances
Has your loved one expressed frustration with their finances? It might be a good opportunity to look at their monthly budget. A common symptom of Alzheimer’s is difficulty or confusion in managing their finances. For instance, they may be confused as to how to pay their bills or the numbers may not make sense to them when they do to you or others. It is extremely important that you work closely with your loved one if they start to experience any confusion or frustration with their finances, because it is extremely easy for someone with dementia to fall into money problems.
How You Can Help
If you suspect that your loved one is showing signs of early Alzheimer’s disease, start to keep a journal. In your journal, make a note each time you notice your loved one exhibit one of the behaviors on this list. If you notice anything else unusual about their personality or their behavior, make a note of those observations as well. If you end up making an appointment for your loved one to see their doctor, you can show the doctor your journal and notes to help with the diagnostic process.
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