When most people think of someone with Alzheimer’s disease they envision someone well into their twilight years who cannot remember their child’s name. While that may indeed describe an individual with full onset traditional Alzheimer’s disease, it doesn’t begin to describe many of the people suffering from the disease. Although there is as yet no cure for Alzheimer’s, it is possible to slow the progression of the disease and manage the symptoms when caught early enough. For that reason, it is important to recognize the signs of the disease – and you might be surprised to learn some of the early signs of Alzheimer’s.
What Is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s is the most prevalent form of dementia. Dementia is defined as a loss of cognitive functioning and behavioral abilities that interferes with daily life. Contrary to popular belief, Alzheimer’s is not the only cause of dementia in the elderly. Other forms of dementia include vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies, and frontotemporal dementia. Alzheimer’s is a progressive brain disease that causes problems with memory, reasoning, behavior and motor skills. Because of the nature of the disease, the symptoms of Alzheimer’s worsen as the disease progresses. Currently, Alzheimer’s is a fatal disease with no known cure.
Alzheimer’s Facts and Figures
To get an idea of the breadth of the problem, consider the following facts and figures relating to Alzheimer’s disease:
- There are currently 5 million people living with Alzheimer’s in the U.S.
- Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S.
- 1 in 3 seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia
- Alzheimer’s kills more people than breast and prostate cancer combined
- In 2015, over 18 billion hours of unpaid care was spent on Alzheimer’s patients by family caregivers
- By 2050, the cost of Alzheimer’s is expected to top $1 trillion
- About 200,000 people have early onset Alzheimer’s disease
Early Signs of Alzheimer’s
We all know to pay attention when an older loved one starts having memory problems; however, did you know that there are several other early signs of Alzheimer’s that have nothing to do with memory? If you were unaware of these signs, you are not alone. Most people don’t know to look for them. As the old adage says “knowledge is power” and in the case of Alzheimer’s, knowing the early warning signs can make a huge difference in treatment options. If you see any of the following signs in a loved one, or in yourself, it may be time to consult with a physician:
- Stealing or other unlawful behavior. Alzheimer’s effects your executive function, or ability to make decisions. That, in turn, can cause the inability to discern right from wrong.
- Frequent falls. A study kept track of how often participants fell or tripped over several months. When researchers looked at the brain scans of those who fell most frequently, they saw a correlation between falls and the early onset of Alzheimer’s Disease.
- Forgetting the function of an object. Not remembering where you put your glasses may be a normal sign of aging. Not remembering what your glasses are for could be an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Eating inappropriate things. Alzheimer’s patients are often reported to have eaten inanimate objects, such as paper, just prior to their diagnosis. Researchers believe it may be because their brain receives hunger signals but doesn’t know how to react to them.
- Inability to recognize sarcasm. Consistently taking sarcastic reports seriously, or “not getting it” is often an early sign of Alzheimer’s or Frontotemporal Disease.
- Depression. One study showed that people who developed depression for the first time after age 50 were three times more likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Some researchers even speculate that chemicals released during depression may trigger or cause Alzheimer’s disease.
- Unfocused staring. Your brain essentially becomes unfocused when Alzheimer’s is present. Detached or unfocused staring, therefore, may be an early sign of so-called “tangles” in your brain.
If you are concerned about the legal issues that often surface when a loved one is suffering from Alzheimer’s, contact the experienced North Dakota & Minnesota elder law attorneys at German Law by calling 701-738-0060 to schedule an appointment.