Early signs of Alzheimer’s in the Elderly

by | Mar 13, 2022 | Blog

Pleasant greetings to all and welcome back! If this is your first time reading our blogs, please be sure to check out our previous blogs as you may find some tips that may be very beneficial to you or a loved one. Today, we address a topic that many persons may have heard about before they had to experience it with a loved one… and unfortunately, they actually learned about it through trial and error. This may be traumatizing for some, so we hope this blog helps bring some awareness to the condition.

Alzheimer’s Disease is named after Dr. Alois Alzheimer who, in 1906 noticed changes in a woman’s brain tissue who had died of an unusual mental illness. Her brain had many abnormal clumps (amyloid plaques) and tangled bundles of fibers (neurofibrillary). Alzheimer’s is a progressive neurologic disorder that causes the brain to shrink and brain cells to die. This disease is the most common cause of dementia, where the individual may experience a continuous decline in thinking, behavioral and social skills that affect their ability to function independently.

Alzheimer’s can also be traumatizing to the family members of those who suffer from it, as they experience these behavioral changes in their loved ones. It may be scary to see your loved one deteriorate right in front of your eyes, into someone you no longer know. Alzheimer’s affects entire households and so understanding what your relative is going through can help you and they better cope with the condition.

People with Alzheimer’s may have difficulties doing everyday things like driving, running errands, or cooking meals. They may get lost easily, have short-term memory loss, put things in strange places, forget where they placed them, and find even the simplest of things confusing. As the condition worsens, they may become angry, worried, or violent.

Many times, the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s may be mistaken for normal signs of aging, and vice versa. As you age, your body goes through a decrease in function on many levels. Knowing the difference between normal signs of aging and signs of Alzheimer’s can help you act quickly and send your elderly loved one for proper diagnosis and treatment by their medical doctor. The table below is a comparison of the normal signs of aging versus the signs of Alzheimer’s Disease:

Signs of Alzheimer’s disease Signs of Aging
Memory loss that disrupts daily life Short term memory affected Forgets at first, remembers later
Challenges in planning or solving problems Can’t make a plan, bad with numbers Making errors sometimes
Difficulty completing familiar tasks At home, work, or leisure – basic stuff Sometimes need help with tasks but usually able to complete them
Confusion with time or place Forget where they are, how they got there Mixing up days of the week but remembering later on
Trouble understanding visual images, spatial Hard to see, judge distance Eye problems from cataracts
New problems with a word in speaking/writing Call things the wrong name; forget May have problems finding the right words at times
Misplacing things and can’t retrace their steps Put items in weird  places and forget Misplace things sometimes but find them later
Decreased or poor judgment Give away money, untidily kept A bad decision made once in a while
Withdrawal from work or social activities Forget how to do a favorite hobby Sometimes too tired to socialize
Changes in mood and personality Confused, depressed, anxious, suspicious, fearful Become a bit irritable at times.

Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease vs Normal signs of Aging

What are the Early Signs of Alzheimer’s

One of the first signs of Alzheimer’s is usually memory problems, although initial symptoms may differ from person to person. There may be a decline in other aspects of thinking, such as using the right words, decreased visual or spatial judgment, and negatively altered reasoning or judgment; these may be signs of the early stages of Alzheimer’s. There may also be Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), which is the stage between the expected cognitive decline of normal aging and the more serious decline of dementia. Not everyone with MCI will develop Alzheimer’s disease and not all dementia is Alzheimer’s. Some cases of dementia may be caused by medication, depression, or some other conditions and it may be temporary, so proper diagnosis from a Medical Doctor is very important.

What happens if my loved one has Alzheimer’s Disease?

Once your elderly loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease by a Medical Doctor, you can put things in place to help cope, get support, and better manage your loved one so they cause no harm to themselves and you do not get burnt out with stress.

Caring for an Alzheimer’s patient can be very frustrating, so it is important to incorporate self-care into your daily routine giving care, as you cannot pour from an empty vessel. The threat of the effects of stress, poor coping mechanisms, physical demands on your body, and emotional damage is very real and may cause you harm in the long term.

Knowing how to strike a delicate balance between their care and your self-care, joining support groups with other persons affected by Alzheimer’s, and learning the proper way to provide care for your loved one with Alzheimer’s will help you and your loved one better survive this condition.

The Alzheimer’s Association of Trinidad and Tobago provides great support for Alzheimer’s patients and their families/friends/well-wishers with information on the disease, webinars, group meetings, charity work, and much more. Look for them on social media to join and get the support you need to better manage your Alzheimer’s relative.

Next week we will take a look at strategies to manage certain symptoms of Alzheimer’s that will keep your relative safe and make the caregiver’s life easier. Share this blog if it was helpful! Thanks for reading!

Photo by Robina Weermeijer on Unsplash