Alzheimer’s disease is a terminal brain disease that causes a slow decline in memory and reasoning abilities, as well as other cognitive changes. Not all memory loss indicates Alzheimer’s disease.
Nonetheless, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, which affects approximately 26 million people worldwide.
Alzheimer’s is a degenerative disease such that symptoms usually develop slowly and gradually worsen over time, progressing from mild forgetfulness to extensive brain impairment. Chemical and structural changes in the brain slowly destroy critical cells die, leading ultimately to drastic personality loss and failure of body systems.
Experts say that there are a number of “warning signs” that may indicate the onset of Alzheimer's. While it’s not uncommon for everyone to experience one or more of these warning signs in varying degrees, it’s best to contact your doctor if you notice any of them in yourself or your loved one(s).
One of the most common signs of Alzheimer's is memory loss that affects normal, day-to-day living. Forgetting recently learned information is one of the most common examples. Similarly, people with Alzheimer’s may forget the names of family members or common objects and/or substituting words with inappropriate ones.
Other examples include forgetting important dates or events, asking for the same information over and over, excessively relying upon memory aides (e.g., reminder notes or electronic devices) or family members for things which used to be handled individually.
It’s important to note that many people over age 65 experience some level of forgetfulness. And, it can sometimes be difficult for loved ones to distinguish between senior moments and Alzheimer’s disease.
While the inability to locate a recipe may be attributed to a senior moment, forgetting how to follow a familiar recipe is a sign of something far more serious. Some people with Alzheimer’s disease may experience changes in their ability to develop and execute a plan, solve a simple problem, or work with numbers.
Inability to concentrate is also a relatively common sign, as it may take much longer to do things than it did in the past. In addition, it is relatively common for keeping track of monthly bills to become an extremely difficult task.
People with Alzheimer's often find it hard to complete daily tasks, such as driving to a familiar location, balancing figures (e.g., simple math), making a budget at work, or remembering the rules of a favorite game. In addition, it’s not uncommon for people with Alzheimer's to lose track of dates, seasons and the passage of time.
They may, in fact, dress without regard for the weather (e.g., wearing several shirts on a hot day or wearing shorts in the midst of a blizzard). And, sometimes they may get lost in familiar locations or forget where they are and/or how they got there. These are some common examples of how Alzheimer’s disease may cause a slow decline in memory and reasoning abilities, as well as other cognitive changes.
Alzheimer’s Disease: Symptoms. Web.
http://www.mayoclinic.org. Accessed 30 Dec. 2011. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/alzheimers-disease/DS00161/DSECTION=symptoms
10 Signs of Alzheimers. Web. www.alz.org. Accessed 30 Dec. 2011.
Alzheimer’s Disease. Web. http://helpguide.org. Accessed 30 Dec. 2011.
Reviewed January 2, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith