Normal aging usually brings with it many changes and challenges. Declines in memory and daily functioning can be typical. However, some seniors show more significant changes in memory and functioning, and many start to worry that the changes they are experiencing could be signs of dementia or Alzheimer's disease. Warning signs of Alzheimer’s can include difficulty planning and solving problems, challenges with familiar tasks, confusion about time and place, trouble with visual images, having trouble with words when speaking or writing, and frequently misplacing items. Whether you are living with Alzheimer’s or caring for a loved one with this disease, online therapy can be a valuable tool to help you cope and maintain good mental health.
What is Alzheimer’s disease? Alzheimer’s disease is generally defined as a specific type of dementia, as well as the most common kind. It typically starts slowly, affecting one’s cognitive function, and worsens over time. Eventually, the individual may have trouble carrying out everyday tasks and need a caregiver in order to get their basic needs met. Below are various signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease to watch for as you and your loved ones grow older.
Memory Loss That Starts To Disrupt Your Life
As people age, it can be inevitable that there will be some decline in memory. Typical age-rated memory and cognitive changes can include sometimes forgetting information and then remembering it later. Alzheimer's may be suspected when there are more frequent and severe incidents of memory loss, including forgetting information that was recently learned. Someone developing early Alzheimer's symptoms may have a difficult time remembering important information, such as dates or significant events, and may need to have the information repeated time and again.
Difficulty With Planning Or Solving Problems
Anyone can face challenges when making plans or solving problems. Some tend to be naturally more inclined to possess these abilities, while others may have always faced some challenges. There can also be general age-related changes that occur in these areas due to changes in the brain. However, more significant declines in the ability to develop and follow through with a plan could suggest Alzheimer's disease. For example, someone in the early stages of the disease may have a difficult time following a recipe or managing bills. It may also be more difficult to concentrate, and it may take longer to complete new tasks than it typically would have.
Challenges With Familiar Tasks At Home Or Work
Being Confused About Time Or Place
Anyone can have occasional confusion about what day or time it is. Sometimes people lose track of where they are or where they’re supposed to be if they are not particularly well-organized. As people age, this type of confusion may occur more often. However, in typical situations, even during aging, the individual will eventually figure it out. Those living with Alzheimer's disease may experience frequent confusion about dates and even seasons. They may lose track of the passage of time and struggle to understand things that are not happening currently or immediately.
Trouble With Visual Images And Spatial Relationships
Age often brings with it certain changes in vision and eyesight that can affect and reduce visual acuity. At times, these changes can be severe if the older adult has cataracts, glaucoma, or another eye condition, but these can often be managed with eyeglasses or other medical interventions. Those with Alzheimer's might find that the disease negatively affects their visual abilities, potentially causing difficulties in judging distances and distinguishing colors or contrasts. This can make driving dangerous and increase the person's risk of injury due to falls or running into items while walking.
Increased Problems With Choosing Words During Speaking Or Writing
Anyone can have occasional difficulty remembering the word they want to use or misspeaking while talking. The same can be true of writing. As people age, these incidents normally increase. However, those with early symptoms of Alzheimer's usually have more significant problems with words. Among the first signs of Alzheimer's can be great difficulty following along with or joining a conversation. They may lose track of what they were saying, have a hard time recalling words, and may even call things by an entirely wrong name.
Misplacing Items Or Leaving Them In Odd Places
Anyone can forget where they have placed some item, whether it is their keys, a bill, or some important paperwork. Most people will experience such a situation at least once in their lives. As people age, these incidents normally become more frequent due to decreases in memory functioning. However, during normal aging, most people will later remember where they left the item. Those with early signs of Alzheimer's disease may not be able to remember where they put the item at all. They may also leave items in unusual places, such as putting a toiletry in the refrigerator.
Losing The Ability To Retrace Steps
The average person may later find an item they misplaced by retracing their steps. This usually involves the individual thinking about where they were that day with the item and then going to check those places for it. Something similar frequently happens when someone gets lost; they tend to retrace their steps to get back to where they started. In normal aging, there will often be some decline in these abilities. In those with Alzheimer's disease, the ability to retrace steps typically decreases, which often puts them at greater risk of becoming lost.
Poor Judgment Or Decision Making
Some people naturally struggle with decision-making, particularly if they have poor judgment. However, if someone has always had sound judgment and reasonable decision-making abilities, and those suddenly start to decline, then it could be a sign of Alzheimer's disease. Decreases in judgment and decision-making abilities can be partially due to reductions in memory. However, these symptoms may also be part of the disorder as it usually causes thinking in general to decline.
Being Different From Their Usual Self
Personality is usually well-established by childhood, and especially by the teenage years. Although one’s personality may continue to evolve during adulthood, the changes are usually very minor. Even then, most changes this late in life tend to be due to significant events, such as trauma or loss. As people age, there may be reductions in the traits a person already has. For example, someone who was always very dominant may become slightly less so. Someone with Alzheimer's disease, especially in the late stages, may show significant personality changes and seem very unlike themselves.
Withdrawal From Social Interaction And Activities
Some people are naturally more social than others, and anyone can become more withdrawn in response to life challenges, such as job loss, health problems, or the end of a relationship. Those with Alzheimer's often become less social because of the changes in their memory and cognitive functioning. They may struggle so much in social settings that they would prefer not to try to interact with others. They may also become less interested in activities they once enjoyed because they find them more challenging and perhaps less enjoyable as a result.
Changes In Mood With Depression And Anxiety
When someone develops health problems, they are usually more at risk of also experiencing mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. These are often responses to the challenges of dealing with such serious life changes. People with Alzheimer's tend to be no different, as the disease can be upsetting and stressful. As people's memory and functioning decrease, they may become depressed, anxious, and worried about what additional changes and declines they may experience.
Online Therapy With BetterHelp
If you have concerns about a family or friend and are perhaps in a caregiving role, therapeutic support can be beneficial. Given the challenges of having Alzheimer's symptoms and the difficulties that often come with being a caregiver, many choose to seek therapy through online platforms. You can connect with a licensed therapist through BetterHelp whenever you feel ready.
Caregivers often have a lot on their plates. There’s not always a lot of leftover time for one to take care of themselves, though doing so can still be essential. Online therapy can save time and make it easier to find a therapist. You can conveniently get the support you need from the comfort of your home without having to leave your loved one alone.
The Efficacy Of Online Therapy
Online therapy can be beneficial for those affected in some way by Alzheimer’s disease. One study assessed the effectiveness of computer and telephone-delivered therapy for caregivers of those living with dementia. Researchers found that caregivers usually experienced improved quality of life, lower burdensome feelings, and reduced symptoms of depression. They concluded that “interventions delivered via telephone and computer have the potential to augment existing dementia care”.
What is one of the first signs of Alzheimer's?
Mild cognitive impairment is usually the first indication of early-stage Alzheimer’s. This can manifest as difficulty remembering details about recent events, struggling to find the right words in conversation, or trouble finding everyday items like keys. As the disease progresses, behavior changes like agitation can also occur.
How quickly does Alzheimer's kick in?
It depends on the individual. Once people surpass preclinical Alzheimer’s disease into early-stage (mild) Alzheimer’s, they may progress through middle and late stage within as little as a few years, or they may survive for as many as twenty. Most people with the disease get it after 65 years of age.
What are the stages of Alzheimer’s disease?
There are four stages: preclinical, early-stage, middle-stage, and late-stage. The preclinical stage could also be called the presymptomatic stage, when brain changes are occurring that will lead to symptoms later. Early-stage is when mild symptoms first kick in.
Moderate Alzheimer's disease is characterized by more intrusive memory problems and is usually the longest stage, while late-stage Alzheimer’s is when the disease is most severe. It can take anywhere from a few years to two decades for Alzheimer’s to be fatal.
What brings on Alzheimer’s disease? Is Alzheimer’s disease inherited?
There are several hypotheses that attempt to explain what causes Alzheimer’s. The most well-known (and potentially well-researched) hypothesis is that substances called amyloid plaques build up in the brain and damage neurons. Many modern treatments target these plaques, and the disease is somewhat hereditary—but other factors like environment play a role, too.
How do I check myself for Alzheimer's?
You can start by performing a memory test or asking a person living with you (such as a family member) if they’ve noticed any changes in your memory or daily life. However, only a licensed health professional can accurately diagnose Alzheimer’s disease, and early intervention—if you do develop Alzheimer’s—is crucial. As such, if you suspect you may be developing symptoms, it’s prudent to visit a physician who can accurately assess your condition.
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