10 Warning Signs Of Alzheimer’s DiseasePosted on August 11, 2014 by ElderCare Resources in Alzheimers Care, Blog, Caregiver Education, Dementia Care
Elder Care: Shedding light on Alzheimer’s Disease
By: Karen Kaslow
Last week we discussed dementia as an umbrella term that describes a set of symptoms including impaired memory, judgment and reasoning.
Today, we will focus on the most common type of dementia — Alzheimer’s Disease. It was first identified in 1906 when Dr. Alois Alzheimer examined the brain of a woman who had died of a mental illness that had included symptoms of memory loss, language problems and unpredictable behavior.
He noticed changes in the brain tissue which today we call plaques and tangles.
Plaques are abnormal clumps of a certain type of protein found in the spaces between the brain cells. Tangles occur inside the cells when a different type of protein becomes twisted and sticks together. These alterations ultimately lead to cell death and, as cells die, affected areas of the brain begin to shrink.
Early-onset Alzheimer’s affects about 5 percent of those affected. Early-onset occurs between the ages of 30 and 60.
Most cases of early-onset Alzheimer’s result from genetic factors and scientists are still studying the relationship between certain types of genes and the development of Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging, but most commonly occurs in people older than 65. This type of is termed late-onset. Increasing age is the greatest risk factor for the disease and, after age 65, the risk of developing Alzheimer’s doubles every five years.
The Alzheimer’s Association has identified 10 warning signs of dementia. They include:
• Memory changes that disrupt daily life
• Challenges in planning or solving problems
• Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, work or leisure
• Confusion with time or place
• Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
• New problems with words in speaking or writing
• Misplacing items and losing the ability to retrace steps
• Decreased or poor judgment
• Withdrawal from work or social activities
• Changes in mood and personality
For specific examples of these warning signs and how to distinguish them from normal behavior, visit the Alzheimer’s Association website at www.alz.org.
There is no single test to diagnose Alzheimer’s and a thorough medical evaluation will help rule out other possible causes of dementia symptoms. Women are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s than men, and life expectancy depends on an individual’s age at diagnosis and general state of health. Younger and healthier individuals may live as long as 20 years.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, and individuals eventually move from the early stages of mild forgetfulness to demonstrating increasing levels of cognitive deficiency, such as poor concentration, the inability to perform complex tasks, loss of personal memories and general confusion.
Some affected individuals may demonstrate wandering behavior, sleep disturbances, hallucinations (such as seeing or hearing things that aren’t really there), delusions (false beliefs such as someone is stealing from them or a spouse is being unfaithful), repetitive behaviors (such as picking at or rubbing something) and/or periods of agitation.
Care needs increase gradually as cognition declines, and physical assistance with dressing, eating and toileting will be required. Eventually, during the latest stages of the disease, physical functioning is affected and difficulties with walking, sitting, swallowing and general movement occur.
During the course of Alzheimer’s, symptoms may be treated with medications and environmental/behavioral interventions.
Published: The Sentinel