What are the Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s

As regular readers know I had an aunt with Alzheimer’s who I took care of through a caregiver for her final six years. In addition, my mother passed away two years ago and she suffered from dementia in her final years. To clarify: Dementia is not a disease but a group of different diseases characterized by the gradual worsening of cognitive abilities. Dementia is seen across all ethnic groups and increasingly so with advancing age. Among 65–69-year-olds, about 2 percent are afflicted, with this figure doubling for every five years of age. Alzheimer’s accounts for 60 to 80 percent of cases.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the following are the 10 warning signs. Also included are examples on simple age-related changes not symptomatic of the disease.

1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life
What’s a typical age-related change? Sometimes forgetting names or appointments, but remembering them later.

2. Challenges in planning or solving problems
What’s a typical age-related change? Making occasional errors when balancing a checkbook.

3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure
What’s a typical age-related change? Occasionally needing help to use the settings on a microwave or to record a television show.

4. Confusion with time or place
What’s a typical age-related change? Getting confused about the day of the week but figuring it out later.

5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
What’s a typical age-related change? Vision changes related to cataracts.

6. New problems with words in speaking or writing
What’s a typical age-related change? Sometimes having trouble finding the right word.

7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
What’s a typical age-related change? Misplacing things from time to time, such as a pair of glasses or the remote control.

8. Decreased or poor judgment
What’s a typical age-related change? Making a bad decision once in a while.

9. Withdrawal from work or social activities
What’s a typical age-related change? Sometimes feeling weary of work, family and social obligations.

10. Changes in mood and personality
What’s a typical age-related change? Developing very specific ways of doing things and becoming irritable when a routine is disrupted.

I saw my aunt deteriorate from a charming kind of silly person to a creature who could not lift one finger after six years of Alzheimer’s. It still scares the bejesus out of me to read these symptoms. Alzheimer’s is a death sentence which can extend to as long as 8 years.

The Alzheimer’s website also offers a wonderful enlightening interactive Tour of the Brain which you can take here.


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Filed under aging, baby boomers, brain, life challenges

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