Today, it's impossible to grow old, watch your loved ones age, or treat geriatric patients without worrying about Alzheimer's disease. This incurable neurological disorder is a constant concern because it's fatal yet common, debilitating yet difficult to detect.
Fortunately, there are two cognitive tests that identify early signs of Alzheimer's disease. There are also a few telltale symptoms that occur early on and interfere with daily life. If you notice any of the following changes, it might be time to discuss diagnostic and treatment options.
1. Inability to recall recent memories
Alzheimer's disease makes it difficult for people to form new memories and process new information. You might find yourself repeatedly answering the same question, because your patient or loved one doesn't remember asking you. Maybe they're more likely to remember details from 40 years ago than 40 minutes ago. According to the Alzheimer's Association, you might also notice that they're regularly relying on notes and forgetting important dates.
2. Forgetting basic vocabulary & tasks
Have you noticed that basic words are harder for them to "find", or they can't remember how to complete everyday tasks? Do they forget how to turn a key in a door, or stop in the middle of a sentence because they can't figure out how to describe what comes next?
3. Losing things
When you misplace something important, like your wallet or phone, you probably retrace your steps until you find it. Alzheimer's disease makes this part more difficult, because it's impossible to remember those steps at all. It also causes people to leave objects in very unusual places, where they're harder to find.
4. Getting lost in familiar places
We all get disoriented from time to time, but if you notice that someone can't find their way along a path they've traced before, it might be a sign of something more serious. For example, an inpatient resident might suddenly get lost on the way back from a room they visit every day, or a loved one might panic on an errand run because they can't remember where they live.
Many signs of Alzheimer's disease, such as memory loss and the mood swings related to it, look a lot like the normal signs of aging. Even worse, deterioration is often gradual, and some people actively hide their symptoms. Remember that early detection is the key to an effective treatment, and stay aware of any changes that occur.