Alzheimer’s and dementia are often confused and used interchangeably, but they are different.
Dementia is an umbrella term that refers to a list of different symptoms, one of those being brain and memory function. There are diseases other than Alzheimer’s
which can cause dementia. When an individual is diagnosed with dementia, they are being diagnosed with a set of symptoms, without knowing what is specifically
causing them. Some forms of dementia are temporary or reversible.
Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia that specifically affects parts of the brain that control thought, memory and language. Symptoms of the disease include
impaired thought, speech and confusion. Alzheimer’s is not reversible or curable.
10 signs of Alzheimer’s
Memory loss that disrupts daily life
This is the most common sign. Forgetting information that was recently learned, forgetting important dates or events, asking the same information over and over and relying heavily on memory aids or other people for reminders are all signs of Alzheimer’s.
Challenges in planning or solving problems
Individuals with Alzheimer’s may have difficulty following a plan or working with numbers. They may be unable to follow a familiar recipe, keep track of monthly bills, or have difficulty concentrating and carrying out simple tasks that didn’t present a problem before.
Difficulty completing familiar tasks
People with Alzheimer’s may find it hard to complete tasks such as driving to a familiar location, managing a budget, or remembering the rules to a favorite game.
Confusing time or place
Losing track of dates, seasons and time is a common sign of Alzheimer’s. People with the disease may forget where they are or not know which day of the week it is. They could also have trouble understanding something if it is not happening immediately.
Difficulty understanding visual images and spatial relationships
Experiencing vision problems can be a sign of Alzheimer’s. Some people may have trouble reading, judging distance and determining colors.
Trouble with finding the right words
People with Alzheimer’s may have trouble finding the right words. They may call items or people by the wrong name. They might stop in the middle of a sentence and not know how to continue.
Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace their steps
Individuals with Alzheimer’s may lose items and be unable to retrace their steps to find them. They might put things in odd places. They may even accuse others of stealing.
Decreased or poor judgment
Alzheimer’s can affect the decision-making process. Therefore, people with the disease may use poor judgment by giving money away to telemarketers or solicitors.
Withdrawal from activities
A person with Alzheimer’s might start to avoid being social and may even withdraw from hobbies, social activities, or work projects. They may have trouble remembering how to complete a favorite hobby or keep up with a favorite sports team.
Changes in mood or personality
Someone with the disease can become confused, anxious, fearful or depressed. They can get easily upset.
The 3 stages of Alzheimer’s
STAGE 1 | MILD ALZHEIMER’S (EARLY STAGE)
In the early stages of Alzheimer’s, friends and family may start to notice their loved one experiencing difficulty remembering things such as familiar words or the location of everyday objects.
Common symptoms include:
• Difficulty finding the right word for something
• Forgetting something they just read
• Not remembering names of people they were just introduced to
• Difficulty performing routine tasks at work or socially
• Losing or misplacing objects
• Trouble planning or organizing
This is usually the longest stage and individuals can stay in this stage for several years. As the disease progresses, the need and level of care will become greater. People at this stage may start to confuse words, get angry or frustrated or act out in unexpected ways.
Symptoms will be more noticeable and include:
• Forgetting information such as their own address or telephone
• Feeling moody or withdrawn, especially in socially or mentally
• Changes in sleep patterns
• Forgetting events about their own life
• Being confused on what day it is or where they are
• Needing assistance picking out clothes that are appropriate for the
season or occasion
• Urinary and bowel incontinence
• Wandering and getting lost
• Personality and behavioral changes, including suspiciousness
STAGE 3 | SEVERE ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE (LATE STAGE)
In the final stage of Alzheimer’s, personality changes may occur and individuals need increasing help with daily activities. They may still use words or phrases, but communicating emotion becomes difficult.
Symptoms and behaviors at this stage may include:
• Changes in physical abilities, including the ability to walk, sit and swallow
• Needing assistance with daily personal care
• Not knowing their surroundings or recalling recent experiences
• Increasingly difficulty communicating
• Vulnerability to infections, particularly pneumonia
Please remember that only a doctor can effectively diagnose which stage a person may be experiencing. You can visit (alz.org) for a doctor’s appointment checklist to assist with the evaluation and prepare a caregiver and their loved one with the right questions to be asked.
Additionally, a caregiver can administer the Clock Test or the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) at home to help identify the seriousness of the symptoms prior to a doctor’s appointment.
If you need help with a loved one diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, we can help. Contact us today!