Alzheimer’s Awareness: How to Spot Early Manifestations in Seniors
We have reached a point in which mental health is regarded to be as important as physical health. In 2021, even an Olympic gold medalist opted to prioritize her mental well-being over the leading international sporting event. This is a reality check to validate that we’re all vulnerable to mental health issues, whether directly or indirectly.
Medical conditions like Alzheimer’s disease are vulnerable to mental health issues, including depression. This article focuses on recognizing the early manifestations of Alzheimer's among seniors and its distinction from dementia as advocated by memory care facilities.
Alzheimer’s vs. Dementia
Often used interchangeably, Alzheimer’s and dementia have different meanings. Dementia is a general term for conditions that impair memory, everyday activity performance, and communications capability. The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's disease worsens with time and has an impact on memory, language, and thought.
While dementia or Alzheimer's disease can occur in younger people, the risk increases with age. Neither is considered a predictable aspect of the aging process. For the most part, the symptoms of the two illnesses overlap. Research has shown that Alzheimer’s accounts for 60 to 80% of all dementia cases.
Early Signs of Alzheimer’s
Indicators of Alzheimer's disease might be subtle and difficult to distinguish from typical aging symptoms. On the other hand, certain habits may be early markers of Alzheimer's disease, especially if they persist and begin to affect everyday living. More can be done to slow the incidence and course of Alzheimer's disease if it is detected and diagnosed early.
Here are the following common signs to watch out for and monitor according to medical professionals:
1. Impaired memory. Forgetfulness is one of the most common and early signs of Alzheimer’s. Here, forgetfulness is in the short term. For example: forgetting something that was said minutes ago, not a few days ago. Memory loss caused by Alzheimer's disease might include forgetting names, key dates, or events, as well as repeatedly asking the same question or conveying the same information.
2. Struggle with familiar tasks. When the brain is affected by Alzheimer's, it may lose the ability to track. So when things that were once simple and ordinary suddenly become challenging and complex, this could be an early sign of the condition.
3. Incoherence with time and place. If a person is constantly confused about where they are or what time it is, this could be an early symptom of Alzheimer's disease.
4. Difficulty speaking or writing. Another early indicator of Alzheimer's is difficulty finishing a sentence. Your loved one may forget what they're saying or become stuck trying to find the right word. Because Alzheimer's alters the way people express themselves through language, it may be beneficial to grasp some basic communication techniques at all stages of Alzheimer's.
Writing can also become difficult when symptoms of Alzheimer’s set in, as one’s normal hand-eye-brain coordination may be impaired.
5. Frequently misplacing things. We all experience this as we get older. But when someone is continuously losing their belongings, it’s potentially an early symptom of Alzheimer's. This is because they not only misplace items but also keep them in unexpected places. Putting clothes in the refrigerator is one example.
6. Anxiety and depression. Memory loss and the inability to deal with new situations and unfamiliar places can be extremely distressing. This can result in high levels of anxiety and despair, indicating the start of Alzheimer's.
Anxiety might emerge as worry; your loved one may start worrying about things more than usual. Meanwhile, a lack of interest in doing anything can be a symptom of depression. While researchers are unsure whether depression is caused by Alzheimer's or a reaction to it, there is a strong correlation.
7. Malaise and loss of interest. A person may not appear depressed, but they may begin to lose interest in previously appreciated activities. They may find it taxing to motivate themselves to achieve anything.
Indifference or powerlessness could be another indicator of dementia. Something may be wrong when someone refuses to get out of bed, dress, or even eat. This new apathy could result from suppressed despair or an inability to digest information and/or communicate effectively.
Interventions for a Loved One Exhibiting Symptoms of Alzheimer’s
1. Seek medical help. There are numerous tests available today that can diagnose whether someone has Alzheimer's disease. If they are suspicious of a doctor's visit, you can get your loved one tested under the appearance of a routine medical consultation.
2. Ensure safety. Implementing home safety precautions for persons with Alzheimer's is a major priority for risk reduction. Modify their living environment for easier navigation. Eliminate any low tables or décor that may pose a hazard. Make life convenient for them by placing all of their everyday toiletry supplies near the bathroom sink.
You may need to lock the front door from the outside to prevent your loved one from wandering out onto the street. It all comes down to taking the appropriate safeguards to protect their safety at home if they are confused or disoriented, especially if they live alone.
3. Get support from family and friends. Taking care of a family member with Alzheimer’s is difficult in itself. For more effective management, it’s wiser to have a support system with everyone in the family and close friends willing to help.
4. Educate oneself. Alzheimer’s is no longer considered a new disease. Research has already discovered useful information about its nature, and understanding of the disease continues to progress. Learn about it to understand how it affects a patient to also prevent yourself from being overwhelmed.
5. Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Encourage regular physical activity, even if it's just 20-30 minutes of walking every day. It's known that a nutritious diet is beneficial to brain health; follow this dietary advice for seniors with Alzheimer's for a diet rich in fresh foods, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat protein.
You can also do brain exercises for seniors, including crossword and jigsaw puzzles, reading, card games, and social engagements.
These are all clinically proven to mitigate the onset of Alzheimer’s and even halt its progression.
It’s important to take care of your mental health at every stage of life, especially as you grow older. This is because your mental state determines how you make choices, how you feel and think, and how you cope with stress, among others.
If you have an elderly loved one you suspect of having Alzheimer’s disease or are suffering from one, it helps to understand the medical condition itself to learn how you can provide the best care for them.
About the Author
Tina Castro is an associate from Mountain Cove Care, a luxury senior care facility in Arizona. After working in hospice care for 3 years, she moved to Mountain Cove Care with a passion for advocating health and wellness to the community. In her spare time, she teaches yoga classes and goes on hiking trips.
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