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What is Alzheimer’s?

MUNCY — Your memory often changes as you grow older. It may be hard to know the difference between age-related changes and the first signs of Alzheimer’s and other related dementias.

Normal age-related changes might consist of making a bad decision once in a while, losing things from time to time or forgetting to pay a bill or what day of the week it is but remembering it later.

November is National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. Alzheimer’s is an irreversible and progressive brain disorder that slowly causes nerve cells in the brain to die. An estimated 5.8 million Americans of all ages are living with Alzheimer’s dementia in 2019. Of these, 5.8 million people, 81 percent are 75 years and older.

Care for an Alzheimer’s patient can come in many forms, but can be expensive. Families can try and care for the patient at home by using services like home health aides or taking them to an adult day service. When the family member is beyond these types of services they require going to a nursing home that can handle dementia.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are 10 top signs of Alzheimer’s disease.

Memory loss disrupting life

In the early stages, forgetting recently learned information, events or asking the same information repeatedly is one of the most common signs of Alzheimer’s disease. Individuals with this disease may need to rely on memory aids or family members for things they used to handle on their own.

Confusion with time or place

Individuals with Alzheimer’s disease can lose track of dates, seasons and times. Sometimes they may forget where they are or how they got there.

Challenges in problem-solving

Individuals may experience a change in their ability to keep track of monthly bills or following a familiar recipe. Their ability to concentrate may also be affected.

Difficulty completing tasks

Alzheimer’s disease will make everyday tasks more challenging and hard to complete. For example, driving to a location they have been to several times before. They may even wander away from home and get lost.

Problem with words

Individuals with Alzheimer’s disease may have difficulty joining in on conversation, stop in the middle of conversation and not recognize how to continue or may repeat themselves. They may struggle to find the right word or call things by the wrong name.

Visual images, spatial relationship

Visual problems are signs of Alzheimer’s. Reading, judging distance and color may pose a problem.

Misplacing items,

unable to retrace steps

A person may put things in unusual place. They may accuse others of stealing their items because they cannot remember where they place it.

Decreased or poor judgement

Alzheimer’s may interfere with an individual’s ability to pay attention to grooming and bathing, or forget how to brush and comb their hair. They may also experience changes in judgement and the ability to make decisions.

Changes in mood, personality

They can become more confused, suspicious, anxious, depressed and even fearful. Individual’s with Alzheimer’s disease may feel out of their comfort zone and become upset when at home, work or in an unfamiliar place.

Withdrawn from work,

social activities

Alzheimer’s may affect an individual’s ability to find enjoyment in activities that were once their hobby, social activities, sports and group projects, causing them to become less social.

If you or someone in your family thinks your forgetfulness is getting in the way of your normal routine, it may be time to speak to your doctor. If you have Alzheimer’s disease, finding out early gives you and your family more time to plan for your treatment and care.

— Koehler is the director at Liberty Manor Adult Day Services.

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