Today, society at large calls any memory impairment “Alzheimer’s” and that just isn’t true. A person forgetting the name of the person they bumped into yesterday after 20 years is not necessarily Alzheimer’s Disease — it may just be an aging memory. However, putting the keys in the freezer, asking a complete stranger to taste their food, or putting inedible objects in their mouth are certainly indications that a cognitive disease may be developing. Knowing these key differences is very important for caregivers; both to be fair to the aging person and to get them appropriate care. Here are some other common symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease. Remember, the onset and frequency of symptoms varies widely by individual.
1. Memory Loss — Be careful with this one. It is a very broad category and Alzheimer’s Disease carries its own quirky type of memory loss. Look for these types of memory gaps in the senior:
- Forgets big events in their life, like marriage, birth or death
- Asks the same questions over and over in quick succession
- Forgets long held, regularly scheduled appointments. The key here is that these aren’t new appointments; these are things that have occurred regularly for years, like Sunday dinner or a bowling league.
2. Confusion with time and place. For Alzheimer’s patients, time warps and place begins to have less meaning. It can be very frightening and disorienting for them and requires comfort and great empathy from the caregiver.
- They may get lost easily, unable to find their way home.
- When at home, they may struggle to find their way to their bedroom or the bathroom.
- Alzheimer’s patients sometimes forget where they are, and fail to remember how they got there.
3. Daily tasks become increasingly challenging. These are the more familiar signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease.
- Simple tasks at work that are often repeated, like filing, stapling, and shutting down the computer, become difficult to complete.
- Favorite games become difficult and the rules hard to remember.
- Cooking becomes difficult and simple things like heating water cannot be completed.
4. Lapse in Judgement. This is a sign of Alzheimer’s Disease that can be easily overlooked, and is perhaps one of the most troubling. The patient may:
- Begin to give unreasonable sums of money to friends and/or relatives.
- May cash out retirement funds or investments for frivolous uses.
- May ask complete strangers in for dinner.
- May approach strangers in the store and ask them for food, money, or even tissues.
There are many other red flags for Alzheimer’s Disease such as trouble speaking and understanding written words, social withdrawal/isolation, mood swings, signs of depression, and even changes in vision.
When it comes to Alzheimer’s, the most important thing for caregivers to remember is this: If the behavior is vastly different from the senior’s usual personality, tenor, and approach to life, it is a cause for concern and something that needs to be mentioned to the senior’s physician.