Over 5.2 million people have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). As the medical community learns more about this disease, the number of diagnoses is predicted to grow in the coming years. Being informed about AD and its symptoms can improve a family’s understanding of a particular family member’s behavior.
This understanding can result in improved care for the family member and it can help family members address the care requirements for their family member more comfortably. Early diagnosis can also lead to the right treatment and quicker intervention.
AD is a common form of dementia. Scientists have determined that AD alters certain chemicals and proteins in the brain, and that these changes result in memory loss, mood swings, language problems and other problems with behavior and thinking. The following lists some of the common symptoms associated with AD, although the specific symptoms differ among patients with AD:
- Memory Loss-An individual suffering from AD may be unable to recall recently learned information and may forget things more often.
- Difficulties with everyday tasks-Because memory is affected by AD, the loss of memory can include the inability to recall how to do things. Tasks that used to be automatic, like cooking or activities related to a lifelong hobby, become difficult to perform for an individual suffering from AD.
- Problems with language-Memory loss will reduce an individual’s vocabulary. Speech becomes difficult to understand because people with AD forget words and use unusual words to complete sentences.
- Disorientation as to time and place- Someone with AD might get lost in their own neighborhood. They forget where they are and what they were doing. In addition, individuals with AD are more willing to wander or to resist care and assistance.
- Poor judgment-Persons with AD have difficulty making proper judgments regarding common things like money or what kind of clothes to wear in specific weather. They are vulnerable to financial scams or bad influence because they can not recognize inappropriate requests for money.
- Problems with abstract thinking- A person suffering from Alzheimer’s might have trouble with ideas, such as math and numbers. They also may not remember that they suffer from AD.
- Misplacing things- Someone suffering from AD puts things in unusual places such as setting car keys in a refrigerator or jewelry in the sugar bowl.
- Changes in mood- Rapid mood swings become more frequent for someone with AD.
- Changes in personality- As persons with AD lose their memory they also lose sense of who they are. Changes in personality, including becoming more dependent, suspicious, confused or fearful, might signal AD.
- Loss of initiative- Persons suffering from AD may become apathetic and may lose interest in activities in which they normally participate and may become more passive. Such persons might watch more television and sleep more than usual.
The symptoms of AD are gradual in onset and the degree to which a person suffers the symptoms may increase with time. Finally, these symptoms are also found in other types of illness. Therefore, early diagnosis of AD is difficult and often depends upon observations by family members of changes over a period of time.