What are the early signs of Alzheimer’s Disease in the elderly? And is it something you should be worried about as you get older?
Alzheimer’s disease can be potentially risky, especially for our aging parents.
The challenge is, there are many myths surrounding AD. And as caregivers, we must recognize its signs early on.
Today, we’re answering some of the most common questions about the early signs of Alzheimer’s disease.
We will also talk about how we can potentially lessen its dangers for our loved ones.
Alzheimer's Disease is a type of dementia that causes memory loss and confusion.
As a progressive illness, AD can affect a person’s ability to process information.
Its effects on the brain may begin years before it is diagnosed.
During the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, the brain changes its structure. This can include abnormal protein build-up, forming amyloid plaques and tangles.
The build-up causes previously healthy neurons to stop working. Eventually, they lose connections with other neurons and die.
Initial damage happens in the hippocampus and entorhinal cortex. These are parts of the brain that are critical in forming memories.
The death of the cells affects the other parts of the brain, causing them to shrink. By the final stages, the brain tissues experience damage and significant shrinkage.
Alzheimer’s disease can affect people of all ages, but it is most common in people over the age of 65.
CDC statistics show one in nine adults aged 45 have reported confusion and memory loss.
In 2020, the number of Americans living with AD have reached 5.8 Million. And the numbers are projected to nearly triple by 2060.
Early diagnosis helps provide information on the severity of the disease and provide necessary intervention.
And there are several ways to check for its early signs and symptoms.
The key is to take note of it as early as possible so we could alleviate its potential risks.
The early signs of Alzheimer’s can manifest decades before a person reaches 60 years old. It can be subtle and can show itself in various situations.
Most of the time, we don’t notice these changes because we get too busy with our lives.
But if you’re living with an elderly loved one, then you should be looking out for these signs and symptoms.
If your elders are having a hard time concentrating and thinking, it might be an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease.
What was previously routine, might now become confusing tasks.
Multitasking may also be a challenge.
Something simple as organizing and managing bills can become difficult. This can lead to missed payments or mismanaged finances.
As the disease progresses, it’s possible that they lose understanding and even forget numbers altogether.
Do your loved ones switch from Mary Poppins to Cruella Deville in an instant?
Mood swings and behavior changes are among the more obvious signs you should be looking out for.
Some show signs of apathy and loss of interest.
Suddenly the activities they loved no longer appeal to them. Some even show aversions and social withdrawal.
Some elderly suddenly lose their inhibitions and become more aggressive towards people.
They may even have irrational tantrums or anger issues without warning.
And then some seniors show signs of confusion. Familiar places become challenging to navigate and cause them to get lost.
Elders with early signs can display an inability to make reasonable decisions and judgments.
This can show in simple tasks like deciding what to wear or what to eat.
Sometimes they tend to wear clothes that are inappropriate for the season. At times, they lose track of time or forget directions.
Routine activities suddenly become too complicated for them. And it will continue to worsen as the disease progresses.
One of Alzheimer’s disease’s risk factors includes hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia.
The complex changes in the brain’s structure can cause unreal visions and false beliefs in the person.
They may feel like they’re threatened or constantly being watched.
Some can even feel like someone is out to get them. Others feel enraged, fearful, or jealous of people.
These false beliefs can cause a strain in relationships especially with family members. And it can be challenging to cope with these changes.
Experts say that these signs can be related to a feeling of loss for the patients.
Irrational fears, delusions, and hallucinations can be a way for them to express a loss they can’t make sense of.
Read more about paranoia and delusions in Alzheimer’s disease here.
This is the most common sign that people notice early on.
Sure, we all get foggy-brained at times. We get so busy that we tend to forget the little things: keys, change, sometimes paperwork.
Eventually, we get right on track.
But for the elderly suffering from early symptoms, it can be different.
Memory loss can manifest as repeated questions and statements. They easily forget conversations, appointments, and events.
Sometimes they tend to misplace things in ridiculous and illogical locations.
Even identifying items, expressing thoughts, or recalling family members can be difficult for them.
Alzheimer’s disease progresses in three general stages.
Each person might experience different symptoms. Some take years for it to manifest. Others can feel the progressions way faster than the others.
Here are the three stages you should be aware of.
People suffering in this stage can still function independently. Despite this, the person might feel like having episodes and memory lapses.
The symptoms may not be as obvious to others. But those who are close to them might notice a slight change as mentioned in the early symptoms above.
At this stage, they might be starting to forget names or newly acquired information. Losing or misplacing valuable objects can also be evident.
Some can display challenges in organizing information or events.
It’s still possible for people with symptoms to live well and take control of their overall health.
It’s also best to consult doctors and professionals for help. It’s also good to consider planning for financial, legal, and end-of-life plans once a diagnosis is completed.
This stage may require a lot of assistance for patients.
At this time, symptoms may be more pronounced. Behavioral changes may be more common, and patients may have unexplained bouts of mood swings.
Simple tasks like grooming and hygiene can start becoming a challenge. And the extensive damage in the brain can cause difficulty in expressing thoughts and performing routine tasks.
Some patients have a hard time recalling information about themselves. They also tend to forget even the most important events in their lives.
Family members can feel like strangers. They can even forget names and faces.
Some experience a drastic change in sleeping patterns and an increased tendency to wander and get lost.
Some patients experience incontinence or loose bowels as well.
This stage of the disease can still participate in daily activities but may require assistance.
Because of this, the tasks they need to do must be simplified to still make them feel autonomous.
Learn how to deal with irrational loved ones better here.
This is the final stage of Alzheimer’s where individuals lose the ability to respond to their environment.
Patients lose their cognitive skills, making it difficult to engage in conversation. Some even lose the ability to control their movement.
Because of their deteriorating brain functions, they may also lose the ability to swallow.
This makes them vulnerable to other illnesses and infections.
While it may be a challenging time for the patient, the caregiver, and the family, there are still ways to preserve the patient’s quality of life.
At this point, the patient can continue to experience the world through their senses.
Caregivers can focus on expressing care by playing their favorite tunes or reminiscing with old photos.
Touch also plays a huge role in making patients feel loved and cared for. Simple activities such as grooming can mean a lot for them.
Family members and caregivers can also go for palliative care options.
The goal is to help late-stage Alzheimer’s patients to be relieved of suffering and still get the best possible quality of life.
These organized services can be helpful especially for those having a lot of discomfort and disability.
Learn more about safety tips for taking care of the elderly.
Many worry about developing AD later in life.
The truth is, having a family member who’s had it doesn’t mean you’re sure to have it as well.
Genetic risk factors can increase your chances of developing Alzheimer’s in the future.
New research also found a link between Alzheimer’s and your lifestyle choices.
Head trauma, high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes can increase your probability of getting it in the future. That’s why you must encourage a balanced diet and an active lifestyle in your aging parents as well.
Alzheimer’s disease is a complex degenerative illness. Therefore, there are several approaches and treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.
The proper diagnosis is the most important part. Different tests and assessments are needed to confirm and rule out potential causes.
Some drugs can help treat the symptoms of Alzheimer's.
Galantamine, rivastigmine, and donepezil are cholinesterase inhibitors that can help control some of the symptoms of Alzheimer's.
In addition, these drugs can help reduce or prevent some of the cognitive and behavioral symptoms of Alzheimer's.
Another type of drug that people with Alzheimer's can take is a disease-modifying drug called Aducanumab.
It is believed to remove a protein called amyloid, which suggests being the main reason behind the decline and death of brain cells.
A healthy diet, exercise, socializing, and mentally stimulating activities can also improve the conditions of Alzheimer’s early stages.
Other alternative treatments can include acupuncture, aromatherapy, and supplements like coconut oil and omega-3 fatty acids.
Studies show acupuncture can stimulate mood and cognitive functions for those suffering from AD.
Essential oils like rosemary, lemon, and lavender are also said to improve one’s mood by activating olfactory functions.
Though it’s important to note that further studies are needed to confirm the effects of aromatherapy, herbal medicines, and other alternative treatments.
Many would think that being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s is a death sentence.
But truth is, it’s far from it.
New research and methods are being discovered that helps to treat and alleviate the challenges of Alzheimer’s disease.
What’s most important is to recognize the early signs of Alzheimer’s disease and have it properly diagnosed by doctors and experts.
This way, your loved ones can get the best care possible.
That's all for today.
Take care, keep mom safe and have a great day!