Alzheimer’s and dementia aren’t the same thing. Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive form of dementia, causing nerve cell death and brain tissue loss. It is a progressive condition, as the disease gets worse, more brain tissue shrinks affecting the memory, speech, thinking, and behavior. One in eight people aged 65 and older have this devastating form of dementia.
There’s no cure for Alzheimer’s and no way to slow the nerve damage it causes in the brain. But treatment can help slow the progression of the disease and may improve quality of life.
Your Loved One’s Journey with Alzheimer’s
Each person’s journey with Alzheimer’s disease is different, sometimes the symptoms get worse quickly and lead to severe memory loss and confusion within a few years. For others the changes can be gradual.
As people age it is normal for them to become a bit forgetful. So how can you tell a harmless forgetful moment from Alzheimer’s disease?. In its early stages, Alzheimer’s may not be obvious, but there are some early warning signs to watch for.
- Short-term memories become hazy in early Alzheimer’s, while long-term memories usually remain intact. Your loved one may forget recent events or conversations you had, repeat the same questions and forget the names of places and objects. As the condition progresses, memory problems become more severe and more symptoms can develop.
- Confusion and disorientation about times and getting lost easily in familiar places.
- Depression: in the early stages, people with Alzheimer’s may understand what’s happening to them and be ashamed or get anxious. Watch for signs of depression, which the doctor can manage with medication.
- Speech problems: your loved one may struggle to remember common words.
- Mood swings and lapses in judgment are also common.
- Poor hygiene: people who were once stylish may forget to wash their hair or start wearing stained clothes.
- Difficulty with familiar tasks: Alzheimer’s affects concentration, so your loved one may not be able to do ordinary tasks like cooking, paying the bills or using a microwave.
- As the disease progresses, people with Alzheimer’s may no longer recognize faces and may react as if family members are strangers, your loved one may become paranoid or aggressive and could even turn on you. Problems performing self-care tasks, or using utensils improperly, like combing his hair with a fork, incontinence, balance problems, and loss of language are common in advanced stages.