Over 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s and unfortunately, the disease is twice as common among African Americans than Caucasians. The illness is also the fourth leading cause of death among older Blacks.
Folks with Alzheimer’s do not know they have it. The number of people living with the illness doubles every five years beyond age 65. If your mother has the disease, you are more likely to develop it according to a new study published in the journal Neurology. Currently, there is no proven treatment or cure for Alzheimer’s. There is, however, considerable medical research that continues in an effort to develop effective treatments for this disease.
Frequently, distinguishing Alzheimer’s disease from other forms of dementia-causing conditions proves difficult. The symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease sometimes mimic those of other dementias. Folks with advanced cases suffer debilitating losses of memory and diminished physical abilities. Patients typically require full-time nursing care, especially as the disease progresses.
If you suspect a loved one is suffering from the symptoms of the disease, urge them to get a medical checkup and proper diagnosis immediately. An early diagnosis and intervention before the onset of debilitating symptoms like cognitive decline could transform the lives of millions. While current medications do not prevent, stop or reverse Alzheimer’s, they can help lessen the symptoms, such as memory loss and confusion.
Know the 10 warning signs of Alzheimer’s so that you can take action!
MEMORY LOSS THAT DISRUPTS DAILY LIFE. One of the most common signs of Alzheimer’s disease, especially in the early stage, is forgetting recently learned information. Others include forgetting important dates or events, asking the same question over and over again, or increasingly needing to rely on memory aids (e.g., reminder notes or electronic devices) or family members for things the person used to handle on their own.
What’s a typical age-related change? Sometimes forgetting names or appointments, but remembering them later.
CHALLENGES IN PLANNING OR SOLVING PROBLEMS. Some people living with dementia may experience changes in their ability to develop and follow a plan or work with numbers. They may have trouble following a familiar recipe or keeping track of monthly bills. They may have difficulty concentrating and take much longer to do things than they did before.
What’s a typical age-related change? Making occasional errors when managing finances or household bills.
DIFFICULTY COMPLETING FAMILIAR TASKS. People living with Alzheimer’s disease often find it hard to complete routine tasks. Sometimes they may have trouble driving to a familiar location, organizing a grocery list or remembering the rules of a favorite game.
What’s a typical age-related change? Occasionally needing help to use microwave settings or to record a TV show.
CONFUSION WITH TIME OR PLACE. People living with Alzheimer’s can lose track of dates, seasons and the passage of time. They may have trouble understanding something if it is not happening immediately. Sometimes they may forget where they are or how they got there.
What’s a typical age-related change? Getting confused about the day of the week, but figuring it out later.
TROUBLE UNDERSTANDING VISUAL IMAGES AND SPATIAL RELATIONSHIPS. For some people, vision problems are a sign of Alzheimer’s. They may also have problems judging distance and determining color or contrast, causing issues with driving.
What’s a typical age-related change? Vision changes related to cataracts.
NEW PROBLEMS WITH WORDS IN SPEAKING OR WRITING. People living with Alzheimer’s may have trouble following or joining a conversation. They may stop in the middle of a conversation and have no idea how to continue, or repeat themselves. They may struggle with vocabulary, have trouble naming a familiar object or use the wrong name.
What’s a typical age-related change? Sometimes having trouble finding the right word.
MISPLACING THINGS AND LOSING THE ABILITY TO RETRACE STEPS. A person living with Alzheimer’s may put things in unusual places. They may lose things and be unable to go back over their steps to find them again. He or she may accuse others of stealing, especially as the disease progresses.
What’s a typical age-related change? Misplacing things from time to time and retracing steps to find them.
DECREASED OR POOR JUDGMENT. Individuals may experience changes in judgment or decision-making. For example, they may use poor judgment when dealing with money, or pay less attention to grooming or keeping themselves clean.
What’s a typical age-related change? Making a bad decision once in a while, like neglecting to change the oil in the car.
WITHDRAWAL FROM WORK OR SOCIAL ACTIVITIES. A person living with Alzheimer’s may experience changes in the ability to hold or follow a conversation. As a result, he or she may withdraw from hobbies, social activities or other engagements. They may have trouble keeping up with a favorite team or activity.
What’s a typical age-related change? Sometimes feeling uninterested in family or social obligations.
CHANGES IN MOOD AND PERSONALITY. Individuals living with Alzheimer’s may experience mood and personality changes. They may be easily upset at home, at work, with friends or when out of their comfort zone.
What’s a typical age-related change? Developing very specific ways of doing things and becoming irritable when a routine is disrupted.
If you need more information about Alzheimer’s disease contact the Alzheimer’s Association at 1-800-272-3900 (available 24/7) or www.alz.org