- By Micah Dorfner
Recognize the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 5.7 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, and this number is projected to rise to nearly 14 million by 2050.
“At first, increasing forgetfulness or mild confusion may be the only symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease that you notice,” says Dr. Thomas Loepfe, a Mayo Clinic Health System geriatric specialist. “But, over time, the disease robs you of more of your memory, especially recent memories. The rate at which symptoms worsen varies from person to person.”
Dr. Loepfe says brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease can lead to growing trouble with:
"It’s normal to occasionally lose track of your phone or forget about an appointment you had scheduled,” says Dr. Loepfe. “The memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease persists and worsens, affecting your ability to function at work and at home.”
- Thinking and reasoning
Dr. Loepfe says that Alzheimer’s disease causes difficulty concentrating and thinking, especially about abstract concepts like numbers. Multitasking is difficult, as well, and it may be challenging to manage finances, balance checkbooks and pay bills on time.
- Making judgments and decisions
“Responding effectively to everyday problems, such as food burning on the stove or unexpected driving situations, may become increasingly challenging for someone with Alzheimer’s disease,” explains Dr. Loepfe.
- Planning and performing familiar tasks
Dr. Loepfe says people with Alzheimer’s eventually may forget how to perform basic tasks, such as dressing and bathing, as the disease progresses.
- Changes in personality and behavior
Brain changes that occur with Alzheimer’s disease can affect the way you act and how you feel. “People with Alzheimer’s may experience depression; apathy; social withdrawal; mood swings; distrust in others; irritability and aggressiveness; changes in sleeping habits; wandering; and loss of inhibitions and delusions, such as believing something has been stolen,” says Dr. Loepfe.