I’ll never forget the day my grandmother babysat me and my siblings when I was around 10 years old. I laughed so hard as we were eating lunch and Grandma asked for at least the 5th time if we wanted ketchup with our hot dogs. I couldn’t wait to tell my parents the funny story of Grandma’s forgetfulness when they returned home. Though I had no idea what I had witnessed, I still feel guilty nearly 20 years later for laughing as I unwittingly broke the news to my father that his mother was developing Alzheimer’s disease. Today, my grandmother is still alive and physically well, but she hasn’t recognized any of her family members in more than a decade.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia among older patients. It slowly and methodically destroys a person’s ability to think, remember, reason, and carry out normal day-to-day activities. To sufferers of Alzheimer’s, their own biographical information becomes lost and friends and family become strangers. On top of the heartbreak of watching a lifetime of shared history and memories disintegrate, family members are often faced with the daunting task of providing 24-hour care to their loved one with Alzheimer’s.
While researchers are still not sure what causes Alzheimer’s, they are actively working to determine the cause and a cure for this irreversible disease that currently affects 5 million Americans and is projected to affect 15 million by 2050. The first signs of Alzheimer’s are thought to appear after age 60. Because early medical intervention can do much to slow the progression of the disease and improve an Alzheimer’s patient’s quality of life, it’s important to know the symptoms to look for.
Here is the Alzheimer’s checklist of signs to look for in ourselves and our loved ones:
|Normal||Early Alzheimer’s Disease Symptoms|
|Can’t find your keys.||Routinely place important items in odd places, such as keys in the fridge, wallet in the dishwasher.|
|Search for casual names and words.||Forget names of family members and common objects, or substitute words with inappropriate ones.|
|Briefly forget conversation details.||Frequently forget entire conversations.|
|Feel the cold more.||Dress regardless of the weather; wear several skirts on a warm day, or shorts in a snow storm.|
|Can’t find a recipe.||Can’t follow recipe directions.|
|Forget to record a check.||Can no longer manage checkbook, balance figures, solve problems, or think abstractly.|
If you notice any of the above behaviors in yourself or a loved one, it’s important to seek care. To learn more about Alzheimer’s disease, including the team of specialists who treats it, how to prepare for a doctor’s appointment, and what questions to ask, read the Vitals Alzheimer’s Disease Patient Education Guide.