Dementia is a result of brain cell death and is an umbrella term used to describe the decline in reasoning, memory, learning, or other thinking skills, which can severely interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s disease, a type of dementia, is a specific and progressive brain disease that gets worse over time, and accounts for 60-80% of dementia cases, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. The Alzheimer’s Association also reports that more than 6 million Americans are living with this disease, with that number expected to rise to 13 million by 2050.
During World Alzheimer’s Month, recognized each September, we take time to raise awareness of a disease that impacts many of our friends and loved ones. It’s also a time to help people better understand Alzheimer’s disease, and warning signs and symptoms that you shouldn’t ignore.
While there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, treatment can slow the progression of the disease. It’s important to understand the warning signs and symptoms, so that you can quickly alert your health care provider and get the care you need as soon as possible.
While memory loss is typical as we age, memory loss that disrupts daily life should not be ignored; it is one of the most common signs of Alzheimer’s disease. Relying on prompts such as sticky notes or a verbal reminder from a partner or caregiver is abnormal, and so is forgetting information that you just learned. Memory loss can also result in a drastic change in the ability to plan, complete familiar tasks, solve problems, remember words or retrace steps after misplacing personal items. Additional signs include confusion with place or time, and changes in judgment or decision-making, for instance, with money or personal hygiene.
Alzheimer’s disease also impacts your emotions and behaviors. Changes in mood or personality and withdrawing from work or regular social activities can indicate the onset of dementia in general and this disease in particular. These social cues can include getting easily upset in common social situations or becoming unwarrantedly fearful and suspicion.
Lastly, this disease can also cause physical changes. Be on the lookout for vision issues that lead to difficulty with balance or reading, misjudging distances that result in trips or falls, having trouble speaking, or consistently spilling or dropping things.
While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, early awareness is key to ensuring the longevity and health of those suffering from this disease. If you or a loved one are experiencing these symptoms, don’t put off reaching out to your health care provider. They are critical to helping ensure you get the care you need, and quickly.