Alzheimer’s is progressive (dementia), so symptoms will gradually get worse, but how quickly and in what ways depends on the individual. These are listed here for you:
- Recent memory loss that affects daily life: It is normal to forget meetings, names or telephone numbers occasionally and then remember them later. A person with dementia may forget things more often, and not remember them later.
- Difficulty performing regular tasks: Busy people can become so distracted from time to time that they may leave the potatoes on the stove too long and burn them. A person with dementia might prepare a meal and forget they made it altogether.
- Problems with language: Many people have trouble finding the right words sometimes. A person with dementia may forget simple words or substitute inappropriate words.
- Disorientation of time and place: It’s normal to forget what day it is or where you are going temporarily. A person with dementia may become lost in their own street, not know where they are, how they got there, or how to get back home.
- Decreased or poor judgment: Dementia affects a person’s memory and concentration, which can affect their judgment. Many activities, such as driving, require good judgment. It’s normal to forget where you are going from time to time and take a wrong turn. A person with dementia may forget which side of the road they’re supposed to drive on and pose a threat to other road users.
Other symptoms of Alzheimer´s
- Problems with abstract thinking: Balancing a cheque book might be difficult for many of us. A person with dementia might completely forget what the numbers are and what needs to be done with them.
- Misplacing things: Anyone can temporarily misplace a wallet or keys. A person with dementia might repeatedly put things in inappropriate places.
- Changes in mood or behaviour: Everyone becomes sad or moody from time to time. A person with dementia can have rapid mood swings, from calm to tears to anger, for no apparent reason.
- Changes in personality: People’s personalities can change a little with age. A person with dementia can become suspicious or fearful, or just apathetic and uncommunicative. They may also experience a loss of inhibition, or become over-familiar or more outgoing than previously.
- Loss of initiative: It is normal for people to tire of housework, business activities or social obligations. A person with dementia can become very passive or require cues to complete daily tasks.
See also: “Alzheimer: What are the causes?“
Caring for a person with Alzheimer’s
It can be a great strain to care for someone with Alzheimer’s, so here are some points that may help:
- Learn all you can about the illness and its progression.
- People with Alzheimer’s can lose the ability to keep track of money. So it’s important to decide early who should help with decisions about money and health care.
- People with mild Alzheimer’s may wish to plan for the future and discuss their treatment with relatives.
- Some people write an advance directive describing the medical and health care they’d prefer. An advance directive is consent or refusal to specific treatment(s) offered in the future when the person doesn’t have capacity.
- Explore options for long-term care facilities(ie, assisted living facility, continuing care retirement community, group home, nursing home), well before you need to consider using them.
- Find out how to access resources, respite care and emotional support.
- Maintain a living environment that will maximize the patient’s ability to function.