Signs and Symptoms of Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease
We know that caring for people with dementia can be difficult and knowing the signs and symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease is the first step to supporting your loved ones in the best possible way. Sometimes these symptoms do not necessarily imply that dementia is the diagnosis, as each symptom can be caused by various other conditions, such as depression or delirium, and each symptom could also be attributed to aging, so it is important to distinguish between these signs and typical age-related changes.
Meeting with a specialist is the best way to find out what is truly going on; however, the following information will ensure that you have the proper information needed to understand the potential future for your loved one. The sooner you receive the proper diagnosis, the easier it is move forward. You can get the maximum benefit from treatments and be better able to plan for the future.
Identifying the early stages of dementia allows you the best possible dementia treatment options. While there is no cure, the sooner you receive the proper diagnosis, the easier it is move forward. You can get the maximum benefit from the dementia treatments that are available, and be better prepared.
If you notice any of these signs or symptoms in you or your loved ones, please consult a doctor.
This is the most common symptom of Alzheimer’s disease and begins with a loss of short-term memory, potentially progressing towards loss of long-term memory as well. What to look for: forgetting important dates or events, repetition of the same question, forgetfulness beyond expected with normal aging.
Changes in personality and mood swings
Becoming anxious, confused, suspicious, depressed, agitated, and fearful are all potential symptoms of Alzheimer’s. These may occur in places they are familiar with, though more commonly they will at least initially appear in locations that are outside the person’s comfort zone.
Those with Alzheimer’s may begin to show impaired judgement, making decisions that appear irresponsible or inappropriate, particularly when compared to past behaviour. This could include such actions as: dressing improperly for the weather, giving excess money to telemarketers, and paying little attention to grooming and hygiene. They may lose control of their impulses, leaving them to say tactless things or shoplift as a result of forgetting of the need to pay. This can also contribute to the next sign:
Troubles with money
The ability to handle money can be impacted by Alzheimer’s because of decreased capabilities in dealing with numbers and remembering payment deadlines. You may notice your loved one beginning to have difficulties paying bills or managing their budget.
Difficulty with familiar tasks
Some people may have trouble with tasks that they’ve been doing for their entire lives, taking longer or even being unable to complete them. They could be unable to navigate to important familiar locations, play a common game, or cook their favourite recipe. They may have extreme difficulty when it comes to dressing themselves, as the choices of what to wear can be overwhelming.
Difficulty with problem solving or planning
People with Alzheimer’s may begin to have challenges in developing or following a plan. This could be a result of concentration issues or difficulties with problem solving, leading to frustration and a slower ability to complete tasks.
While it is common to associate forgetfulness with natural aging, those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease are more prone to leaving their things in strange places and being completely unable to retrace their steps in an effort to find what they’ve misplaced. This can lead to further complications in combination with other symptoms, such as developing feelings that others are stealing or hiding the person’s things.
Confusion with time or place
Some people may lose track of aspects of time and space, such as forgetting what day, season, month, or year it is, or forgetting where they currently are and/or how they got there. They may have difficulty thinking about things that aren’t in their immediate circumstances – for example, forgetting where they live when they are out at the store or a family member’s house. The perception of time is another thing that can present a huge challenge, as some people with Alzheimer’s may not be able to tell an accurate passage of time – for example, believing that 5 minutes have passed when really it has been 5 hours.
People with Alzheimer’s experience diminishing ability to communicate due to a difficulty with vocabulary and other aspects of language. They may stop mid-conversation and become at a loss at how to continue or finish their thoughts, or they may use the wrong words when referring to everyday objects. As the disease progresses into advanced stages, language can be reduced to simple phrases and may eventually result in complete loss of speech.
A person suffering from Alzheimer’s may begin to exit seek, which is the compulsion to find an exit and escape from their surroundings. This can lead to them wandering aimlessly and become lost, a serious risk to someone in their condition. The causes are varied and can be related to other symptoms, such as confusion with time, inability to recognize familiar faces or places, and confusion or stress associated with behaviour swings.
Trouble with visual images or spatial relationships
People with Alzheimer’s can develop vision problems that are above and beyond age-related issues such as cataracts. They may have difficulty reading, determining colour or patterns, or judging distance. They might think that someone else is looking at them from a mirror or be unable to see a meal apart from the plate it is on. At Dementia Support, we combat these issues by providing clean and open spaces, to make tasks as simple and straight forward as possible. We avoid complex patterning and unnecessary clutter to prevent any stress that may be caused by an inability to comprehend what those suffering from Alzheimer’s are looking at.
Some people may begin to remove themselves from social, family, and work situations, due to increased stress they may be under as a result of their disease. They may be unable to perform the tasks they once did so feel ashamed and they withdraw to prevent embarrassment. It may also be a sign of them having depression, which is a common issue among those with Alzheimer’s disease.
Loss of facial recognition
Those suffering from Alzheimer’s may begin to forget who people are. Beginning with new acquaintances, the difficulty of recognition can progress to forgetting the faces of friends and then finally family members.
Difficulty with motor skills
People with Alzheimer’s can experience difficulties with their fine motor skills, preventing them from completing such tasks as buttoning their clothing, tying their shoes, or unlocking and opening a door.
Delusions and paranoia
Some people with Alzheimer’s may develop paranoia that they are being followed, stolen from, or someone wants to hurt them. Furthermore, they may begin to experience hallucinations and delusions, sensing things that aren’t there. These can lead to verbal and physical aggression, especially when combined with other symptoms, such as their inability to communicate, mood swings, or poor judgement.
As the day progresses, those with Alzheimer’s may become overwhelmed by their symptoms, which can lead to difficulties sleeping. A malfunctioning body clock, failure to separate between reality and dreams, reduced lighting, and exhaustion may cause the person to be unable to sleep and give them the desire to seek exits and wander. This symptom is also known as “sundowning”.
This behavioural issue is most prevalent in the late afternoons and evenings and manifests itself as being childlike or clingy. The person may follow their caregiver around or mimic what they do and say. They could constantly interrupt others and their repetitive questioning can become worse. This is often a result of confusion and fear, with the person being unable to understand their surroundings and wanted constant affirmation and attention.
What We Can Do To Help:
If after looking over this information you have questions or concerns about your loved one, please contact Dementia Support for assistance with where to go next. We constantly receive calls from worried caregivers wanting the best for their loved ones. Remember that at Dementia Support you are not alone. We know that you want the best care for your loved ones and we are here to help you as best we can. We also know that it can be overwhelming and upsetting when trying to care for your loved ones. Sometimes when dealing with symptoms of dementia it can even be embarrassing, but remember that this is part of the disease, and know that there are ways to support and even change some of these behaviours. Acknowledge that by reading this information you are taking the first step to improving the quality of life of your loved ones.
If your loved one is experiencing signs and symptoms of dementia, contact us to learn how you can improve their care and use simple tools to help with their daily living. We have lots of experience and are happy to pass on any resources to you.