By the time you are old enough to be a member of AARP, you are probably aware of some memory issues. You may not be able to remember names of people you met just once, years ago. You may need a minute, or more, to come up with the right word or to recall some obscure fact you don’t need to know every day.
You may even wonder if you are in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Fortunately, chances are that you are not. For people over the age of 65, only four to seven percent have Alzheimer’s disease (although the percentage with some form of dementia is approximately double that). The overwhelming majority of senior citizens don’t have Alzheimer’s. But there are some reliable indicators that could apply if you do.
- You don’t remember things like you used to. It’s normal to have difficulty remembering, for example, the names of people you met at a party last week. It’s not normal, on the other hand, to introduce yourself to the same person at the same party twice because you didn’t remember meeting them a few minutes earlier.
All of us have difficulty with memory recall as we age, but if you can’t even remember enough to realize you don’t remember something, there is a problem. The classic example is that it is normal to forget where you put your car keys, but it is not normal to forget what car keys are for.
- Difficulty performing daily tasks. People with Alzheimer’s disease might have difficulty using a TV remote or turning on a microwave oven. Or they may forget the telephone number they are dialing in the middle of dialing it. Alzheimer’s disease robs people of the ability to do the things they usually do without thinking about them.
- Problems with language. People who have Alzheimer’s disease develop difficulties with self-expression. They lose the ability to communicate with nuance. Unable to express emotions, they raise their voices or pout or become combative. They may describe everyday objects as “things” and start referring to people they know well in generic terms, for instance, “that man” or “that woman” instead of the name of their spouse or their child.
- Disorientation to time and place. People with Alzheimer’s disease may wander off and not know where they are or how to get back home. They may also not know how to find a bathroom, make a phone call, or get food and water. GPS tracking devices can save families a great deal of anxiety.
- Bad judgment. Frontotemporal dementia, a condition with symptoms overlapping those of Alzheimer’s disease, affects the frontal cortex, the part of the brain involved in “executive function.” People who have Alzheimer’s disease make bad judgments because of issues with a different part of the brain, but with some of the same outcomes. They may give away savings to total strangers, make unnecessary purchases, and destroy new cars, new appliances, and gifts from their families. They may abandon or destroy prized possessions and make horrendous business deals. People with Alzheimer’s disease who are not protected by an honest power or attorney or guardian can lose their life savings.
- Problems with abstract thinking. Alzheimer’s affects numeracy and literacy. Someone with Alzheimer’s will not be able to keep track of their bank accounts. They may not understand the concept of credit. They won’t be able to distinguish fiction from reality, and they will not get a joke.
- Misplacing things. Someone who has Alzheimer’s may lose important papers, keys, credit cards, watches, jewelry, or medications. They may place these objects in odd places or leave them where they cannot be found for reasons that make sense to them at the time.
- Changes in personality. People with Alzheimer’s may act out in ways utterly inconsistent with their normal behavior. If they retain enough memory and executive function to realize what they did later, they can become horrendously embarrassed and depressed, even suicidal.
- Changes in personality. Alzheimer’s disease transforms independent people into needy people. It turns friendly people into suspicious people. It generates paranoia and confusion.
- Loss of interest in life. People who develop Alzheimer’s disease may lose interest in their families, their friends, their pets, and their hobbies. They may retreat into solitary inactivity.
Of course, not everyone with Alzheimer’s shows all 10 of these symptoms at the beginning of their disease. It is a major challenge for families and caregivers to allow people with Alzheimer’s all the independence they can handle during the early stages of their disease, while showing them respect and at the same time protecting them and people around them from disastrous choices in behavior.
Alzheimer’s is not yet treatable, but there are things that can be done to slow it down. One of them is making sure that elderly people have the best hearing possible.
People in any stage of Alzheimer’s strain to understand speech. They understand better when they hear better. People who can hear pay more attention to the world around them. They receive more stimulation from their surroundings, and they are more aware when their families are trying to show them love.
Everyone over the age of 60 needs regular testing from a professional audiologist. Harbor Audiology is here to help. We work with Medicare, the VA, and all major insurance companies. Contact us and make an appointment with Harbor Audiology in Tacoma, Port Angeles, Silverdale, Sequim, Gig Harbor, or Bainbridge Island today!
Categorised in: Warning Signs of Alzheimer's Disease