Normal Aging or Alzheimer’s Disease
The normal progression of aging causes changes in the brain, particularly the parts of the brain that affect memory and learning. During the aging process some neurons in the brain may shrink, while others may be damaged by free radicals. Other insults to the brain may be occurring due to age related illnesses such as; high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart disease.
Over time, as we get older our memory may become a little impaired, like forgetting where you put your keys, but is it a sign of Alzheimer’s disease? It can be difficult to recognize the difference between normal aging and the early signs of Alzheimer’s unless you know what you are looking for. So how do you know if your loved one is one of the one in eight people over 65 who will get Alzheimer’s? Below we will discuss the early signs to look for:
What to Look For in Early Alzheimer’s:
- Speech and Memory Impairment – Short term memory is one of the first signs you may notice. A person may have no trouble recalling things from many years ago, but not remember asking you the same question they did an hour ago. This early stage of the disease also affects their speech due to the memory loss they may struggle for finding their words when speaking.
- Altered Behavior – Changes in personality, this can include; moodiness, confusion, poor judgment, or outbursts of anger. They may get lost easily when driving or in familiar places. Someone who once was well groomed may exhibit a loss in personal hygiene, forgetting to shave, bathe, brush their teeth or hair and start wearing mismatched or dirty clothing .
- Performance Difficulty – Issues in performing work or home related tasks, inability to plan or organize, difficulty in retaining read material, losing or misplacing valuable items.
What You Should Do Next
The thought of your loved one having Alzheimer’s may be frightening to you and your loved one, but early diagnosis and treatment is very important for both your loved one and you. There are many new treatment modalities for Alzheimer’s today and early intervention can make a big difference in both your lives. See a qualified physician as soon as you can be seen, there are other medical conditions that can cause similar symptoms, but the sooner you know the better your outcome will be.
If it turns out that it is Alzheimer’s there are support groups in most areas all across the country that can be of tremendous help in coping with the disease and giving you emotional support. It is important to get professional advice along the way and to be certain you as the caregiver has the support you need while caring for your loved one.
How Alzheimer’s is Treated
Though there may not be a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, there is treatment. Today researchers are working harder than ever before to find a cure for Alzheimer’s and have developed some new medications to help to slow the progression of the disease. With early treatment these medications can help your loved one retain mental skills and slow down the effects of the disease process, helping them to remain independent longer. Even daily task function is improved for extended periods of time which helps the person with Alzheimer’s feel less overwhelmed by the progression of the disease and can improve mood and demeanor. And though for now there is no cure to stop the nerve damage that Alzheimer’s causes, the medications can lessen the symptoms and make both of your lives a bit more manageable, for longer.
And though the news of an Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis is never what one wants to hear from their physician there is support and help … and through research there is always hope. Reach out to your local Alzheimer’s Association.