Sometimes when you’re leaving for work, you look for your keys and jog your memory but you can’t remember where you left them. Everyone struggles to remember details occasionally but how can do know when it’s an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease?
Experts say one symptom isn’t an indication of dementia or Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s causes up to 80% of dementia cases and dementia is a chronic loss of cognitive functions that affects memory.
Other factors that cause memory loss include Vitamin B12 deficiency, thyroid, brain, liver or kidney disorders. A plethora of symptoms might be signs of Alzheimer’s, which makes it important for you to identify the signs for the best chances of a quicker diagnosis and treatment.
Does Alzheimer’s only Happen to old People?
Usually referred to as Early Onset Alzheimer’s disease, it is diagnosed in adults under 65 years. It shows up when you’re in your 50s and sometimes as early as 30s and 40s. One of the genetic causes is deterministic genes that guarantees an individual will have Alzheimer’s. The genes include
- Presenilin-1 (PS1): identified in 1992 and found in the 21st pair of chromosomes.
- Presenilin-2 (PS2): Identified in 1993 and located on the first chromosome
- Amyloid precursor protein (APP): discovered in 1987 and found on the 21st pair of chromosomes.
These three genes differ from others and cause symptoms to appear earlier and increase your risk of having Alzheimer’s disease.
What are the Signs of early Onset Alzheimer’s?
Before making a diagnosis, your doctor will ask about your medical history, test your memory to analyze your problem-solving skills and check for any of the following symptoms:
- Forgetting the route to a known location
- Difficulty swallowing or speaking
- Losing track of the time, day or year
- Personality or mood changes
- Difficulty following a recipe
- Withdrawing from social situations
What are the Warning signs of Alzheimer’s in Older Adults?
Apart from early onset Alzheimer’s that affects middle-aged adults, the well know disorder mostly affects older adults past 65 years. It is not a normal part of the ageing process. Alzheimer’s impairs intellectual abilities, memory and interferes with daily life.
Probably the first indication of Alzheimer’s, most people assume that confusion and memory loss in senior adults is an inevitable part of ageing. Sadly, risk factors like anxiety, stress, lack of proper sleep, exercise and depression put you at risk for Alzheimer’s.
Co-author of The Alzheimer’s Action Plan, Lisa P. Gwyther explains that while others might forget details of a conversation, AD individuals forget immediate events and conversations. They forget their children’s name today and remember it the next day. Nothing is predictable.
A strong indicator of dementia is when a loved one, routinely discovers lost items in unusual spots. Individuals with AD don’t just forget keys in the freezer or the garage door remote in the toilet, they leave them in strange spots that makes it impossible for them to retrace their steps to find the missing items.
Challenges in Planning or Solving Problems
Some individuals may experience challenges developing and following plans with numbers. Such problems might include tracking monthly bills, calculating family finances, following a recipe. It takes longer to complete tasks especially time-consuming tasks that require concentration.
Difficulty with Routine Tasks
During a game, you suddenly can’t remember the rules, you’re driving to your best friends’ house, a route you’ve taken countless times and you don’t know whether to turn left or right. You come home from the grocery store but you don’t know where the spice container is. These are routine tasks that required minimum effort in the past but with Alzheimer’s it’s’ more difficult.
A person with AD is more likely to make irresponsible, inappropriate decisions, unlike their past personality. They might splash money on a 55 inch TV set they don’t need, wear winter clothing’s in the middle of summer or lack ability to determine what’s’ safe and isn’t safe.
Confusion with Place and Time
A common sign of Alzheimer’s is losing track of the passage of time. You wake up from a short nap without knowing if its’ January or August or whose house you woke up in. You lose track of seasons, dates and location. If its’ not happening in the moment, you find it hard to understand events. After some time, the memory starts returning or someone repeats the details to you severally.
A person’s communication and language skills diminishes significantly as dementia progresses. They start a sentence but have difficulty midway. Finding the right words to communicate is especially troublesome. You might substitute car for TV, chair for table, invent new words or repeat familiar words.
After some time, you give up on words, speak only your mother tongue or use gestures to communicate.
Mood Swings and Agitation
When you can’t remember important details about your life or environment. It’s normal to feel agitated or anxious. Some might start pacing, become fixated on specific details or experience irrational mood swings. Such agitation happens because of fatigue, confusion, fear or feeling overwhelmed in a world that makes no sense.
Researchers have found a correlation between Alzheimer’s disease and frequent falling. They studied 125 older adults and tracked how often they tripped or fell. The results showed that those who fell the most showed symptoms for Alzheimer’s disease.
Eating Inappropriate Things
A surprising symptom of Alzheimer’s is patients who eat about 500 calories more per day than others in their age bracket. The brain receives hunger signals it doesn’t know how to interpret. A metabolic change also happens that prevents most from gaining weight even with increased calorie count. Scientists are still trying to understand why patients eat inanimate objects like paper.
Withdrawing from Social Activities
Withdrawing from activities you used to enjoy such as football, game nights, and family day events is an early sign. This happens because you have difficulty keeping up with your favourite team or compete in a sport or fun event you enjoyed. The frustration and fear of public embarrassment causes you to gradually withdraw from public events or social gatherings.
Alzheimer’s is the most common brain disorder among older adults over 80 and affects millions of people worldwide. These symptoms are the common signs but not everyone exhibits the same symptoms. Alzheimer’s affects cognitive function and physical behaviour. When you receive the diagnosis from your physician, don’t panic and run. Find out what tests you can take, medications to manage the disease and current clinical trials you’re eligible for.