Alzheimer’s is a progressive brain disease that directly affects the memory, as well as thinking and behavior. It’s the most common form of dementia and is characterized by the loss of memory and intellectual abilities, affecting the quality of life of the sufferer.
This disease accounts for 60-80% of dementia cases around the world and affects more than 5.4 million individuals in the United States. It’s estimated that this figure will increase to 16 million by the year 2030.
Although it mostly affects older adults, the disease can occur in people much younger with symptoms starting as early as age 30. Early recognition of the signs of Alzheimer’s is fundamental for diagnosis and early treatment. For this reason, it’s important to be aware of the possible symptoms and to learn to differentiate them from other mental problems.
Sudden changes in memory
One of the first signs of Alzheimer’s disease, especially in the early stages, is forgetting newly acquired information, like important dates and events.
In general, while facing this symptom of the disease, the affected person will use notes or electronic devices to remember what they used to be able to do on their own.
Difficulty planning or solving problems
Some people lose their ability to develop or follow a plan that involves dealing with numbers. They may also have difficulties keeping up with simple things like making a familiar recipe or paying bills each month.
Problems performing familiar tasks
Often those suffering from Alzheimer’s experience difficulties while trying to complete daily tasks both at home and in the workplace. They may have trouble getting to a familiar location, managing a budget or remembering the rules to a familiar game.
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Disorientation in time and place
When the disease advances, people start to forget the date, seasons, and the passage of time. This symptom requires supervision as a person can forget where they are or how they got there.
Loss of interest or motivation in previously enjoyed activities
The emotional changes brought on by Alzheimer’s can cause a person to lose interest in the things they formerly enjoyed. Social isolation and a sudden lack of interest are an indication that something is going on.
Alzheimer’s can cause a person to experience difficulties following or participating in a conversation. This is the result of forgetting words and losing the ability to understand speech and writing.
It’s common to experience difficulties finding the right words and the appropriate vocabulary, for example, referring to a pen as a “writing stick.”
Forgetting where things go
Forgetting where things go is also an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease. For example, a person might put the iron in the fridge or forget where they put something that always goes in the same place.
Inability to make decisions
This disease can reduce or eliminate a person’s ability to make important personal decisions, like financial ones.
They don’t know how to manage money, and may give away large sums of money to salesman or telemarketers.
Loss of initiative
Lack of interest in familiar activities can be a sign that something more is going on. Alzheimer’s leads to a loss of initiative to indulge in pastimes or to get involved in social activities, projects, or sports.
In addition, these changes can cause a loss of interest to participate in any type of activity that involves other people.
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Changes in mood or personality
Changes in mood or personality are the most noticeable changes in those suffering from Alzheimer’s, both in the initial and advanced stages of the disease.
Often, affected persons will be confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious. Moreover, they may become irritable, with feelings of anger towards those around them.