Alzheimer’s disease is the fourth leading cause of death in American seniors, and the odds of developing Alzheimer’s increase with age. According to the book Aging Well: The Complete Guide to Physical and Emotional Health, Alzheimer’s affects 6-8% of people who are 65 or older, and 25-45% of those who are over 85 years of age.
The general symptoms of Alzheimer’s include memory problems, difficulty with language, judgment issues, disorientation and confusion, and changes, either subtle or drastic, in the personality of the affected individual.
In Aging Well, Dr. Jeanne Wei and Dr. Sue Levkoff go beyond these Alzheimer’s symptoms to list seven warning signs and to clarify how the above symptoms may present in real life.
Seven warning signs
The signs they mention are listed below, along with expanded explanations that we have added:
- Repeating questions. It’s not unusual for a person with Alzheimer’s to ask the same question many times in a short period of time. For example, if Mom asks “Who’s coming over for dinner?” four times in 15 minutes, that may be due to Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, especially if she does not realize that she has already asked that question.
- Repeating stories. Everybody loves to tell stories that mean a lot to them, but if Dad keeps talking about that incredible fishing trip, hardly varying from one telling to the next, this may be a symptom of Alzheimer’s.
- Forgetting how to do things that the person has previously known how to do. For example, your sister, who has made her famous meatloaf from memory hundreds of times, may suddenly no longer be able to do so.
- No longer being able to handle finances. Perhaps Grandma was never an expert at balancing her checkbook; now, however, she’s forgotten to pay her bills for an entire month.
- Getting lost or losing things. For instance, a dementia sufferer may have driven to the shopping mall almost every week, but may suddenly forget how to get there.
- Exhibiting poor personal hygiene and being unaware of it. If your brother sometimes wears the same shirt for days on end or neglects to brush his teeth for an extended period of time, but he’s sure he just did his laundry yesterday and had a good brushing this morning, he may be exhibiting signs of Alzheimer’s.
- Needing another person to answer questions and make decisions. It’s a good idea to consult with people and get opinions and advice, but if Grandpa doesn’t know the answer to basic questions or can’t figure out how to make decisions on his own, Alzheimer’s is likely coming into play.
Alzheimer’s is a complex disease and there are other symptoms that may occur, including paranoia or hallucinations. If a person suspects that he or she has Alzheimer’s, or that a loved one may have it, it’s important to see a doctor and explain the symptoms observed. Proper and prompt treatment ensures the most favorable outcome.
- Alzheimer’s Association Helpline Operates 24/7 (datingdementia.com)