Opinion

Prepare yourself for Alzheimer signs

Are you concerned about memory problems? An early dementia diagnosis can help individuals gain more control of their lives by taking the necessary steps to live better with the disease.

Do you know the 10 early warning signs?

Memory loss that affects day-to-day function

It’s normal to occasionally forget appointments, colleagues’ names or a friend’s phone number and remember them later. A person with Alzheimer’s disease may forget things more often and not remember them later, especially things that have happened more recently.

Difficulty performing familiar tasks

Busy people can be so distracted from time to time that they may leave the carrots on the stove and only remember to serve them at the end of a meal. A person with Alzheimer’s may have trouble with tasks that have been familiar to them all his or her life, such as preparing a meal.

Problems with language

Everyone has trouble finding the right word sometimes, but a person with Alzheimer’s may forget simple words or substitute words, making his or her sentences difficult to understand.

Disorientation of time and place

It’s normal to forget the day of the week or your destination — for a moment. But a person with Alzheimer’s disease can become lost on their own street, not knowing how they got there or how to get home.

Poor or decreased judgment

People may sometimes put off going to a doctor if they have an infection, but eventually seek medical attention. A person with Alzheimer’s disease may not recognize a medical problem that needs attention, or wear heavy clothing on a hot day.

Problems with abstract thinking

From time to time, people may have difficulty abstract thinking, such as balancing a chequebook. Someone with Alzheimer’s disease may have significant difficulties with such tasks, for example not recognizing what the numbers in the chequebook mean.

Misplacing things

Anyone can temporarily misplace a wallet or keys. A person with Alzheimer’s disease may put things in inappropriate places: an iron in the freezer or a wristwatch in the sugar bowl.

Changes in mood and behaviour

Everyone becomes sad or moody from time to time. Someone with Alzheimer’s disease can exhibit varied mood swings — from calm to tears to anger — for no apparent reason.

Changes in personality

People’s personalities can change somewhat with age. But a person with Alzheimer’s disease can become confused, suspicious or withdrawn. Changes may also include apathy, fearfulness or acting out of character.

Loss of initiative

It’s normal to tire of housework, business activities or social obligations, but most people regain their initiative. A person with Alzheimer’s disease may become passive, and require cues and prompting to become involved.

If you recognize the symptoms of early Alzheimer’s disease or dementia in yourself, a friend or family member, contact your doctor to discuss your concerns.

Christine Leclerc is manager of marketing and communications for the Alzheimer Society of B.C.

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