Having trouble swallowing
Not being able to swallow easily is a huge symptom of Alzheimer’s disease. This is because dementia can affect the part of the brain that controls ones swallowing mechanism. But not only this, it can also be a huge cause of food being stuck in the lungs, which can further cause issues like aspiration pneumonia. A way to look out for this is uncontrollable coughing or choking when eating.
Having problems with vision
Those suffering with Alzheimer’s will also discover issues with their vision. This can include identifying colours, reading, understanding numbers, and comprehending images. This is also where you can begin to see the decline in someone with the disease as they will start to not recognise people in photos, or even realising that they are a photo.
Speaking and writing
It is often a known-challenge for Alzheimer’s patients to speak and write. In terms of speaking, signs to look out for are: suddenly stopping speaking midsentence, forget what they were going to say, or repeating what they have already said. In writing, ommon signs to look out for are; not being able to write coherently, or using incorrect words.
Having problems making decisions
People suffering with Alzheimer’s and Dementia will find decision-making extremely difficult. This is because it affects the part of the brain that allows for remembering and processing information. Signs to look out for are: wearing the ‘wrong’ clothes, failing to keep clean, or giving away large amounts of money randomly.
If you snore or have sleep apnea (where you stop breathing in your sleep, causing louder snores) then you should keep an eye on this. This is because it has been found that high levels of beta-amyloid plaques produced by the brain during sleep apnea are a clear indication of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Patients with Alzheimer’s can get easily disorientated and lose track of time, a lot! They will often be confused as to how they got somewhere and/or will have difficulty getting back to where they originally came from. A way to attempt to avoid this happening is placing their address in their pocket. Then, if someone else finds it, they can direct them back home.
Memory loss in the most well-known symptom of Alzheimer’s Disease. This is where patients will forget essential things like names and places, or will forget things that have just been mentioned. People react to memory loss in different ways, most experience short term memory loss – where they will remember clearly things from the past but will struggle to remember things that are recent.
Withdrawal from social activities
People suffering with Alzheimer’s will often not want to take part in social activities like they used to. This is because they realise that they will most likely have an issue with following conversations or keeping up with teammates. To combat this, include them anyways! Make them feel wanted and happy to be there.
People suffering with Alzheimer’s Disease often experience violent mood swings due the changes in the brain that occur in the early stages on Dementia. To help the patient get through this, assure them that you are there for them, remind them of the past, and give them space when needed. Look out for unexplained anger and sudden outbursts.
Finding it difficult to express themselves
Another early sign of Alzheimer’s Disease is when they have a problem with expressing their needs and feeling effectively. This is often seen through using gestures to help, or getting short-tempered and giving up on communicating entirely. This is because the disease affects the part of the brain that helps with information processing.
Forgetting recent conversations
When it comes to Alzheimer’s Disease, the idea of repeatedly having to tell someone that their spouse is dead or they don’t live where they think they do is almost a cliché. Unfortunately, it’s a very real problem for those caring for them, who may find themselves repeating the same conversation on a regular basis.
As you get older, it’s usual to have some problems locating items or remembering what you’ve come into a room to fetch. However, Alzheimer’s Disease magnifies these problems with the result that someone may put things in very unusual places. For instance, car keys in the refrigerator, a cell phone in a plant pot, and so on.
Struggling to think of the right word
At some point or other, we’ve all said, “the thingummy”, “the wotsit” or something similar. With Alzheimer’s Disease, however, the struggle to remember the name of familiar objects is constant. It can make holding a conversation difficult and can be a source of considerable emotional distress.
Forgetting place names
Whereas occasionally forgetting the words for physical objects is relatively common in all sorts of people, forgetting place names – including of familiar places – is more unusual. However, it’s fairly common in Alzheimer’s Disease and, unfortunately, can make it harder to help someone get home again if they’ve wandered off.
Asking questions repetitively
The memory problems that characterize Alzheimer’s Disease particularly affect short term memories. This can result in someone asking the same question again and again, sometimes only moments after they last asked. While frustrating and worrying for those on the receiving end of the questions, it’s important to remember that the person asking the questions is usually still sufficiently self-aware to also feel concerned.
A previously cautious person, known for their good judgment, may become increasingly cavalier as Alzheimer’s Disease takes hold. This might mean they start wearing very eclectic outfits or, more worryingly, for example, making risky financial decisions, leaving their house unlocked or not looking before crossing the road.
Difficulty making decisions
Even in its early stages, Alzheimer’s Disease affects the brain’s executive processing abilities. This can make decision-taking increasingly difficult. And it’s not only bigger decisions – whether to downsize a house or how to manage an investment fund – that are hard. Smaller decisions, like what to have for dinner or which sweater to choose, can be equally challenging.
Forgetting what something’s called
Although Alzheimer’s Disease particularly seems to target short term memory, it can also cause problems with recalling frequently used names of both people and things. This is hard to hide and so is often one of the earliest signs of the disease, although it’s worth remembering that it can also be a benign characteristic of aging.
Becoming increasingly inflexible
Routines are very important to most people attempting to manage early stage Alzheimer’s Disease. And, even before diagnosis, a sufferer may start to attach more importance to staying in familiar places and for carrying out their daily tasks in accordance with their preferred methods and timings.
Wary of trying new things
The brain’s ability to learn new things diminishes with age – but Alzheimer’s Disease significantly accelerates this loss. Perhaps as a consequence, many people with Alzheimer’s Disease become wary of trying new things. This can be frustrating for those around them but may be a sub-conscious attempt at self-protection.
Becoming more emotional
People living with Alzheimer’s Disease often become much more emotional – and not always for reasons that are obvious to their families, friends or carers. A heightened emotional response doesn’t always translate to someone who cries more. Instead, they may become more easily irritated, overreact to minor events, or rapidly become disinterested in something.
Losing your “filter”
It’s not uncommon for older people to become more forthright and say things that their younger selves would not have done. However, this characteristic is frequently more pronounced in people with Alzheimer’s as the sufferer begins forgets what counts as acceptable behavior and what does not.
Mild Cognitive Impairment
This is the interim stage between age-related memory failings common to most people and dementia. In Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), sufferers experience more severe problems with memory, judgment or language but not to the same extent of someone with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. However, MCI is often (although not always) a precursor to dementia.
Forgetting recently learned information
A classic sign of Alzheimer’s Disease is an increasing inability to remember new information. This might mean forgetting what one ate for lunch on the previous day or the identities of well-known contemporary celebrities or politicians. Conversely, the same person may recall with perfect clarity events, people, and even conversations from decades earlier.
Lack of spontaneity
For many people, an increasing reliance of routines and an unwillingness to go to different places or try a new activity are notable features of early Alzheimer’s Disease. This lack of spontaneity may be most obvious in someone who previously embraced new ideas and unexpected invitations at the drop of a hat but it can affect any sufferer.
At its mildest, confusion is relatively easy for both the person affected and those around them to brush off as just part of growing older. Further along the scale, confusion can have much more potentially dangerous results. For example, a previously competent driver may mix up the gas pedal and the brake, or someone may put their electric kettle to boil on the stove.
Difficulty interpreting visual images
Vision problems are common with advancing age. However, the issues caused by Alzheimer’s differ from those stemming from, for example, cataracts because they are non-reversible. Problems with color or contrast identification can cause problems when driving, while other vision issues may affect the ability to read or make someone more likely to stumble, trip or fall.
Difficulty with spatial relationships
Even a previously very skilful driver may begin to experience problems with, for example, bay parking or in judging the distance between the car and the garage doorframe. This is because Alzheimer’s Disease can affect spatial processing abilities – a problem that is often most obviously apparent in driver.
Taking longer to complete everyday tasks
Completing everyday tasks such as washing, dressing, teeth cleaning, and food preparation becomes harder for someone with Alzheimer’s Disease as the illness affects both the memory and the executive functioning of the brain. Written notes, labels and alarms are examples of coping methods that some people find helpful.
Trouble dealing with money
Often noticed by family and friends, having trouble with money is a common early sign of Alzheimer’s Disease. For example, someone may struggle with counting out the right change or with paying bills. They may also start to display an uncharacteristic lack of confidence in managing their finances and ask others to check bank statements and so on.
Higher levels of anxiety are common in Alzheimer’s Disease, especially in earlier stages when the sufferer retains an awareness of what is happening to them. Some sufferers may benefit from anti-anxiety medication but familiar places and people, and a regular routine can also help quell anxiety.
Difficulties with logical thinking
As a disease that affects brain function, it’s sadly inevitable that logical thinking will be affected at some stage. For many people, these problems become apparent at a fairly early stage in the disease and make it hard to carry out previously ordinary everyday tasks.
Attention span problems
Faltering attention spans frequently cause problems in early stage Alzheimer’s Disease. For instance, a previously prolific reader may find themselves having problems finishing a chapter or a newspaper article. They may face similar problems with following conversations. Cognitive exercises may help ward off the problem for as long as possible.
Altered sleeping patterns
Someone with early stage Alzheimer’s Disease may struggle with sleeping. They may find it difficult to fall asleep at their usual time or they may wake more frequently throughout the night. These altered sleeping patterns can cause problems for carers as well as the sufferer. However, as the disease progresses, many people begin sleeping a lot during the day, even following a full night’s sleep.
Hallucinations, delusions or paranoia
Someone with Alzheimer’s Disease may begin to lose touch with reality. For instance, with hallucinations, they may see or hear things that aren’t really there. Delusions occur when the sufferer believes something false – for instance that someone is breaking into their house. Then, with paranoia, the sufferer believes – without rational justification – that others are “out to get them”.
As Alzheimer’s Disease progresses, some people may begin to exhibit increasingly inappropriate behavior. This might mean someone uses vulgar language for the first time in their life. It could also mean someone removes articles of clothing in public, or starts to have aggressive outbursts that might even extend to physical violence.
Early stage Alzheimer’s patients often appear restless. They may have trouble sitting still, even if they’re meant to be sitting to eat a meal. Equally, they may pace a room instead of reading a book or watching television. If asked, they may be unable to explain why they’re restless.
Sadly, emotional distress is a hallmark of early stage Alzheimer’s Disease. The cause is unclear but may relate to psychological distress, overstimulation, physical pain or even hunger. These tearful outbursts can be hard for both the patient and their carer to deal with. There may be some bittersweet consolation in knowing that tearful episodes often lessen as the disease progresses.
A fairly classic sign of progressing Alzheimer’s Disease is the sufferer’s tendency to wander off. This may involve them leaving their home or care facility – and they may do so even if they are inappropriately dressed or without shoes. Late afternoon and early evening are the most common times of day for an Alzheimer’s patient to go wandering.
Although usually a sign of later stage Alzheimer’s Disease, repetitive movements can occasionally appear at an earlier stage. The movements might be no more than a muscle twitch – and the person may not even seem to notice that it’s happening. Sometimes, however, movements can be more pronounced: for instance, hand-rubbing or foot-tapping.