9 Early Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease in Seniors You Need to Know

Anchorage Assisted Living Alzheimers Care Signs of Alzheimer's Disease

If you have a family member or friend aged 65 or older, you should familiarize yourself with the early signs of Alzheimer’s disease. Statistics show roughly 10 percent of all seniors suffer from it. Also known simply as Alzheimer’s, it’s the most common form of dementia, accounting for roughly two in three of all dementia diagnoses. By learning its early signs, however, you can help the senior manage this otherwise common neurological disease.

1) Speech Problems

Like with other forms of dementia, Alzheimer’s involves the destruction of brain cells. And as a senior’s brain cells die, he or she may experience speech problems. Known as aphasia, it’s typically one of the first noticeable symptoms of Alzheimer’s. A senior with early-stage Alzheimer’s may struggle to come up with the right words when having a casual conversion, or he or she may simply use the wrong words. When speech problems such as these arise, it could be indicative of Alzheimer’s onset.

2) Missing Appointments

During the early stages of Alzheimer’s, many seniors have remembering appointments. A senior might call and make an appointment with his or her physician, for example, only to forget about it after a few days. Forgetfulness, in general, is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s, but it’s more pronounced with missed appointments. Therefore, you should pay attention to whether the senior in your life is keeping his or her appointments.

3) Distorted Time Perception

Many seniors with Alzheimer’s have a distorted perception of time. In other words, they struggle to tell how much time has passed. Alzheimer’s affects the way in which seniors perceive the passage of time. A senior may think five minutes has passed when it’s really been an hour or vice versa. With a distorted perception of time, the senior will likely exhibit confusion.

4) Late Evening Confusion

While seniors who suffer Alzheimer’s may experience confusion during the day, dementia-related confusion is most common during the late evening. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, a Chicago-based nonprofit that specializes in fighting Alzheimer’s, one in 10 seniors with Alzheimer’s regularly experience confusion during the late evening, a symptom that’s informally known as sundowning. A senior may be mentally sharp during the day, but once the sun goes down, he or she becomes confused.

5) Losing Personal Items

Everyone is bound to lose a personal item at some point during their life, and seniors are no exception. If a senior frequently loses personal items, however, it could be an early sign of Alzheimer’s. Short-term memory loss is a common, as well as defining, symptom of Alzheimer’s. As this neurological disease damages the senior’s brain, the senior may forget where he or she placed items like their car keys, cellphone, wallet or doctors’ orders.

6) Sudden Mood Changes

Another early sign of Alzheimer’s is sudden mood changes. The brain, of course, is responsible for regulating a person’s mood. It produces and releases various chemicals — serotonin, oxytocin, dopamine, etc. — to achieve a healthy and happy mental state. When damaged due to Alzheimer’s, a senior’s brain may produce an insufficient amount of these chemicals, or it may produce the wrong ratio of these chemicals. Either way, the senior will likely experience sudden mood changes as a result. He or she may seem happy one minute and then angry, depressed or anxious the next minute.

7) Trouble Sleeping

Seniors with Alzheimer’s often experience trouble sleeping. A study published in the medical journal Frontiers in Neuroscience found that one in four Alzheimer’s patients had a sleep disorder. For patients with late-stage Alzheimer’s, the rate of sleep disorder was even higher. Medical experts are still trying to understand why Alzheimer’s interferes with sleep, but a plausible theory lies in the disease’s impact on a senior’s circadian rhythm. Alzheimer’s interferes with the brain’s ability to regulate a senior’s day-and-night cycles. With the disruption of his or her circadian rhythm, a senior with Alzheimer’s may experience trouble sleeping.

8) Loss of Vision

You might be surprised to learn that loss of vision is a sign of early Alzheimer’s. Seniors living with this disease often have a narrower peripheral range of vision than their counterparts who don’t suffer from dementia. A senior with Alzheimer’s might be able to see what’s in front of them but not what’s to their sides. Alzheimer’s can also adversely affect a senior’s ability to perceive colors. Some seniors with this disease struggle to identify colors, particularly those involving blue and purple tones.

With that said, Alzheimer’s typically doesn’t affect the eyes; it only affects the brain, which can manifest in the form of vision loss. Vision is the result of light entering the eyes, at which point the brain tries to interpret the light. Alzheimer’s, unfortunately, can damage parts of the brain that are responsible for interpreting light, including the occipital lobe. With damage to the occipital lobe or its surrounding tissue, the senior’s vision may decline.

9) Difficulty Completing Basic Tasks

Difficulty completing basic tasks can be a sign of early Alzheimer’s. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for instance, explains that seniors with Alzheimer”s often struggle to cook recipes or pay their bills, even if they’ve been doing those tasks for many years. Many seniors with Alzheimer’s struggle to put on and tie their shoes as well. It’s a task most people have performed all their life, but Alzheimer’s sufferers, putting on shoes can be incredibly difficult. If you notice a senior struggling with basic tasks like cooking, paying bills or putting on shoes, it could be attributed to early Alzheimer’s.

While there’s currently no cure for Alzheimer’s, recent advancements in medical science have paved the way for newer and more effective treatments. If you know a senior who’s exhibiting signs of Alzheimer’s, you should encourage him or her to visit a physician. The physician may prescribe medication, or he or she may refer the senior to a dementia specialist, such as a neurologist or neuropsychologist. Regardless, professional medical treatment is paramount for coping with Alzheimer’s.

Living at Baxter Senior Living in Anchorage Alaska At Baxter Senior Living, we work to ensure that our community is an extension of your loved ones family. If you are at a place in your life that you need to discuss Anchorage Assisted Living, Anchorage Memory Care, or Anchorage Respite Care please reach out today. We are happy to help answer any questions. Contact a Baxter Senior Living Representative today! 907-865-3500

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