Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of dementia, which is another word for brain degeneration and memory loss. The cognitive decline that comes with an Alzheimer's diagnosis may start small - a person might forget people's names, have trouble keeping a schedule, and experience other easy-to-miss lapses in memory. But over time, the condition worsens. A person with late-stage Alzheimer's may have trouble performing basic tasks such as getting dressed in the morning or preparing food.
It's crucial to catch Alzheimer's early so as to best prevent it from worsening fast. Luckily, research on Alzheimer's is advancing; treatments have become much more effective. However, there is still no known cure for Alzheimer's.
The most well-known symptom of Alzheimer's is memory loss. But there are other clues to watch out for to catch the disease, as well.
Based on information from the National Institutes of Health and the Alzheimer's Association, these are some of the lesser-known symptoms of Alzheimer's disease you should know about.
Lower Energy Levels
During the first stage of Alzheimer's, many people experience a decreased motivation and drive, usually attributed to lowered energy levels. Tiredness and fatigue could come from many different causes, including common scenarios like stress and diet changes. Alongside other symptoms, however, decreased energy is something to look out for.
Always Wanting to Stay Home, Sit, or Sleep
Social withdrawal is a common symptom of Alzheimer's disease. A person may start to withdraw from social scenarios, neglect their usual hobbies, or avoid talking with others. Rather than go out and engage, a person may tend to prefer sleeping, sitting at home, or watching television alone.
Forgetting Recent Conversations
Forgetfulness is the most well-known symptom of Alzheimer's, but this subtle sign can easily be overlooked. It's easy to forget details of recent conversations, such as names, dates, and other information. But if a person used to remember these things easily and suddenly struggles to recall recent conversations, it could be an early warning sign.
Trouble Putting Thoughts Into Words
Some people are better at expressing themselves verbally than others. But experiencing significant difficulty forming and speaking sentences could be a sign that something more serious is going on. Language trouble is an early sign of Alzheimer's and can occur as early as within the first two years of its onset.
Hand-eye coordination is directly related to brain function and speed. If this suddenly suffers or you begin to feel that dizzy spells happen disproportionately often, you may want to mention it to your doctor. It could be an early sign of Alzheimer's - or it could indicate another problem with brain function.
Having Trouble With Handwriting
Handwriting is directly tied to hand-eye coordination. A sudden struggle with or noticeable change in handwriting could indicate something going on with cognition. People with Alzheimer's will sometimes show messy handwriting or forget how to write certain letters.
Difficulty Following Recipes
General problem-solving tasks get more difficult for people suffering from Alzheimer's. This can include simple procedures like following a recipe or other set of instructions. If your grandparent suddenly has trouble cooking a recipe they've been making for years, you might want to express concern and get your grandparent to a doctor.
Trouble Keeping Track of Bills
Finances and deadlines may become more difficult to keep track of for a person with Alzheimer's. Not only is remembering to pay and keep track of bills difficult, but procedural tasks such as balancing checkbooks are difficult, as well. A sudden pileup of late payments or confusion with bills is a strong warning sign.
Using the Wrong Words for Common Objects
People with Alzheimer's often have a hard time with vocabulary - and not just with learning new words. Words for common objects might slip from their memory, causing them to refer to things by the wrong word or a made-up name.
Depression, anxiety, and Alzheimer's can be interconnected. Mood swings, unexplained outbursts of anger, and bouts of depression are all warning signs seen in Alzheimer's patients. Of course, these things can be seen independent of Alzheimer's, as well.
Getting Lost Often
A person with Alzheimer's may easily get lost in an area they used to be familiar with. Directions and spatial orientation become more difficult as cognition declines. This may show up while a person is driving or if they suddenly forget where they are.
Rambling Speech Patterns
Speech that is directionless and rambling may occur when a person develops Alzheimer's. This could be to hide lost trains of thought. It could also be because the person has gaps in memory as to what they've already said.
Lashing Out at Family and Friends
The confusion and frustration of living with Alzheimer's disease can cause rifts in interpersonal relationships. Someone suffering from memory loss may not realize it and become angry with others or with seemingly minor situations. This often results in lashing out at caretakers, family, and friends.
There are many things that can disrupt sleep schedules, but if you or a loved one suddenly has a hard time falling or staying asleep, alert your doctor. If nothing else, your doctor can help you come up with tactics to help you fall asleep faster. And if something is going on and this is an early symptom of Alzheimer's or another condition, the earlier you can catch it the better.
Forgetting How to Use Appliances
If your loved one suddenly has trouble using appliances that have been around the house for years - such as a blender or microwave - it could be an early sign of Alzheimer's. In addition to forgetting facts and having trouble with language, procedural memory tends to suffer, as well.
Wearing Inappropriate Clothing for the Weather
People with Alzheimer's or another form of dementia can become disoriented in time and forget what date or season it is. This can show up as dressing for warm weather when it's cold or dressing too warmly during the summer.
Unusual Decisions With Money
Judgment and decision-making are often affected by Alzheimer's disease. A person with Alzheimer's might start making poor or erratic decisions with their finances, such as giving large amounts to telemarketers or recklessly spending.
Paranoia and Suspicion
Lashing out at family and friends is common in Alzheimer's patients - and so is rising paranoia or suspicion. A person with Alzheimer's may often become confused or start to believe that their caretakers, friends, and family are plotting against them. Alzheimer's sufferers may feel a sense that they are losing control over things or are losing autonomy. Alzheimer's disease is truly a serious condition. Luckily, there are lifestyle habits you can adopt to help prevent it.
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