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Alzheimer’s Disease: What are the Symptoms?

When a senior friend or family member stumbles over a word or loses their keys, it is easy to dismiss it as the natural effects of aging. But those small missteps may signal a serious problem. Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, is mostly associated with the elderly, but early-onset of the cognitive disorder can affect people as young as 40.

The specter of Alzheimer’s disease is frightening, and the common reaction is to avoid the conversation and “wait and see.” But that may be a mistake, said Amy Silbaugh, manager of clinical development at Visiting Nurse Association of Ohio.

“As soon as you notice they are forgetting things, get them to the doctor and have them evaluated,” Silbaugh said. While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, there are medications that can slow its progression if it is detected early enough.

Early Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease

Silbaugh said there are three stages of Alzheimer’s disease. The best hope of treatment comes in the earliest, or mild, stage. The symptoms to watch for in this important period include:

  1. Forgetfulness.
  2. Trouble learning something new.
  3. Impaired decision making.
  4. Difficulty navigating new places.
  5. Trouble finding words.
  6. Difficulty with complex tasks, such as paying bills or handling an insurance claim.
  7. Mood swings.
  8. Becoming less social.

Someone with these symptoms should see a physician, who will conduct an evaluation that includes a cognitive test used for diagnosis. There is no physical test for Alzheimer’s disease.

Once a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease has been made, families should get involved to help their loved ones prepare for the future. Alzheimer’s patients should determine their desires and goals, and put in place plans to ensure their decisions are carried out after they are unable to handle matters for themselves. Those plans should include assigning a legal and medical power-of-attorney, establishing a living will and an advance medical directive.

Alzheimer's is a Progressive Disease

As the disease progresses, symptoms become more debilitating, and patients are said to be in the “moderate” stage, the longest of the disease. Symptoms in this stage include:

  1. Failure to recognize family or friends.
  2. Forgetting basic personal information, including home address or telephone number.
  3. Trouble keeping up with the tasks of daily living, such as personal hygiene and housekeeping chores.
  4. Personality changes.
  5. Beginning to jumble words.
  6. Possibly exhibiting psychotic symptoms such as delusions or paranoia. Often, Alzheimer’s disease patients believe someone has stolen their belongings or broken into their homes.
  7. Possibly becoming angry or violent.

Silbaugh said this is the stage at which families should consider finding 24-hour supervision for the patient. That could take the form of private-duty nursing like that offered by VNA of Ohio, a residential care facility or living with family members.

The final stage of the disease is known as the “severe” stage. At this point, the person may be:

  1. Confused or unaware of his surroundings.
  2. Unable to remember his own life history.
  3. Unable to speak.
  4. Unable to eat or swallow without assistance.
  5. Exhibiting unusual habits, such as finger tapping and or leg movements.

Call VNA of Ohio Today

Learn more about VNA of Ohio mental health services, or call us today at 1-877-698-6264.