According to the Alzheimer's Association, more than 5 million people in the United States are living with Alzheimer's disease, one of the leading causes of death and disability among those older than age 65. While there's no cure for Alzheimer's, being aware of the symptoms can improve the chances for early detection of the disease. Read on to learn more about what to look for.
The Ten Signs of Alzheimer's
Researchers have identified ten primary warning signs of this disease. They include forgetfulness that impacts daily life; difficulty doing once mastered tasks, such as paying bills; trouble with planning or problem solving; confusion about time or place; trouble reading or driving; trouble speaking or writing; misplacing objects; poor judgment; withdrawal from previously enjoyed activities; and changes in mood and personality. These signs are typically severe and distinct from the forgetfulness that is a normal part of the aging process (for example, misplacing keys or forgetting a phone number).
Diagnosis of Alzheimer's
While none of these signs alone necessarily means you or a loved one has Alzheimer's, they are red flags to consult with a physician. While the disease can be challenging to diagnose, the doctor will do a complete physical and mental health assessment, including tests of memory and problem solving and medical exams that may rule out other causes. He or she may also order additional diagnostic tests, like a CT or MRI scan, which can help pinpoint a diagnosis.
The Importance of Early Detection
According to the Alzheimer's Association, the earlier that the disease is diagnosed, the longer you will be able to preserve cognitive function and stave off symptoms. While there's no cure for Alzheimer's, treatments are available that can slow the disease's progress. A care specialist from Cornerstone Hospice and Palliative Care says early detection of Alzheimer’s allows families to plan for necessary medical care and develop a strong support system.
If a primary care physician suspects a diagnosis of Alzheimer's, he or she will typically make a referral to a specialist. Doctors who specialize in this disease include geriatricians, geriatric psychiatrists, neurologists, and neuropsychologists. Together, the medical team will make recommendations for treatment, which typically includes medications as well as physical and occupational therapy.
While the thought of developing Alzheimer's disease can be frightening, being aware of the early signs and proactively seeking diagnosis and treatment can greatly improve the prognosis if you or a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer's.