Disease is often a normal old-age burden that can be treated or even controlled. But it would be important for you to know the 10 most common symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, as there is currently no evidence of a treatment for this incurable illness.
According to the Alzheimer Society of Canada, approximately 747,000 Canadians over the age of 65 had Alzheimer’s Disease (or a related disease) in 2011, and this number will increase to 1.4 million by 2031. Currently, there are about 120,000 patients in Quebec, 17,000 of whom are under 65 years of age.
With this article, we would like to help you not be caught off guard with Alzheimer’s disease. It is often family members, spouses or children who are the first to notice an abnormal change in the behaviour of a loved one. Therefore, it is important to be well informed about this illness and to know how the disease progresses. Knowing how to recognize telltale signs of the disease at an early stage and sounding the alarm as soon as they appear will save you a lot of pain and regret.
If you can detect the first symptoms of the disease early on, you will be better able to take care of your loved one. You can then quickly establish a monitoring strategy of the evolution of Alzheimer’s. This will allow you to maintain a good quality of life both for the affected person and the family, and to make a quick transition to appropriate resources when needed.
More specifically, you will need to plan whether to go with home care services and a caregiver or a private residence for seniors with specialized care or a CHSLD.
In this regard, we strongly advise you to gather a family council at the first warning signs and discuss it. You can then consult your family doctor or a memory specialist since the loss of memory is very often an early symptom of Alzheimer’s.
What is Alzheimer’s disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative brain disease that causes the gradual death of brain cells (the neurons) and loss of connectivity, which disrupts the cognitive abilities of the person. It is the most common cause of dementia in the elderly. It leads to the gradual and irreversible loss of mental functions, causing primarily memory problems.
Loss of memory is one of the best-known symptoms. However, the progression of the disease, including the evolution of lesions in the brain tissue and other parts of the brain, will later prevent other mental abilities from functioning and accelerate cognitive decline.
Hence, Alzheimer’s disease also causes emotional and behavioural disorders. Such symptoms are not part of the normal ageing process; it is, therefore, important to consult a doctor as soon as they appear to make sure they are not caused by related diseases or other factors.
Be aware that the order of onset of Alzheimer’s symptoms can vary greatly from person to person.
Amyloid plaques that form with older adults and are thought to be toxic to brain cells were identified as being one of the major causes of Alzheimer’s disease. Therefore, they represent one of the main fields of investigation and analysis in the development of a possible treatment.
“But given its role in the pathology of Alzheimer’s disease, Tau protein has been extensively investigated recently. Tangles inside neurons are formed when a protein called Tau aggregates into twisted fibrils. As a result, cells begin to die, giving rise to the disease’s symptoms and other types of dementia. With several clinical trials of amyloid-targeting therapies failing, Tau has become one of the most actively pursued therapeutic targets for Alzheimer’s disease in the United States.”
For more information on the subject, you may consult this paper in Science Daily.
Main risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease
The medical community agrees that a healthy lifestyle can help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and its related diseases. In addition, we now know that more than half of Alzheimer’s cases are attributable to seven risk factors; these are controllable or modifiable for the most part:
- high blood pressure
- physical inactivity
Taking care of these risk factors can help you prevent Alzheimer’s.
Warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease
The Alzheimer Society of Canada categorizes four stages of Alzheimer’s disease that we discuss in more detail in another article: early stage, middle stage, late stage and end of life.
To be suffering from Alzheimer’s disease is first to present memory disorders that are important enough to have an impact on everyday life.
This does not happen overnight; it is also important to note the frequency and intensity of symptoms or disorders. There is a difference between a small occasional problem and a problem or disorder whose frequency and intensity increase steadily.
Here are some warning signs:
Forgetting that they previously forgot recent events, causing complications in the performance of daily tasks.
Substituting or inserting words, making ideas incomprehensible.
Unusual or inappropriate behaviour, accompanied by sudden mood swings.
How to distinguish between old age and Alzheimer’s disease
It is important to recognize the main symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease but, first and foremost, it is equally important to be able to distinguish between a sign of normal aging and an Alzheimer’s symptom.
Thus, we have listed 10 normal signs of aging that, although unpleasant, do not prevent your relative from getting along in society. Behavioural problems in society are very often one of the undeniable signs of Alzheimer’s disease.
On the other hand, you should know that many people, both young and old, have different degrees of memory impairment, but that does not mean they have Alzheimer’s disease or early dementia.
10 normal signs of aging
- Forgetting names or appointments sometimes but remembering them later.
- Making occasional mistakes in keeping accounts or having more difficulty handling numbers than before.
- From time to time, needing help to use a modern household appliance or to use a new technology (Facebook, Instagram, Cellular, Connected Objects etc.)
- Being a bit confused when you ask yourself what day of the week it is, where you are, and remembering it later.
- Having vision problems… probably related to cataracts or glaucoma.
- Sometimes having trouble finding the right word or needing to think longer to express your thoughts clearly.
- Misplacing objects from time to time and later remembering their location or retracing your route to find them.
- Taking a bad decision from time to time and feeling guilty for not knowing how to make the right decision.
- Sometimes feeling tired and lacking enthusiasm to fulfill one’s professional, familial and social commitments.
- Becoming more easily irritable by the unexpected or when routines are interrupted, disturbed.
For more information on the subject, you may consult the National Institute on Aging.
The 10 Most Common Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease
1. Memory loss affecting daily activities
Frequent forgetfulness, especially of recent events, which he/she does not remember later.
One of the most common signs of Alzheimer’s disease is forgetting recently learned information, such as important dates and events. Sufferers ask for the same information several times and ask for help with tasks they were used to managing themselves.
2. Difficulties in accomplishing daily tasks
Doing housework, groceries, preparing a meal, getting dressed, bathing, etc.
Daily tasks requiring coordination and dexterity often become a burden for people with Alzheimer’s disease. Going to bingo, to their favourite social club, playing their favourite game; all these tasks are now a challenge.
3. Language issues
Forgetting simple words and replacing them with inappropriate or inaccurate words that will make ideas incomprehensible or make for strange sentences. Not finding the right word and using another word, such as “2-wheeled car” rather than “motorcycle”.
The person may also use general words such as “matter”, “stuff”, “thing”, etc. Reading and writing become disrupted, disorganized. Conversation and the logical reasoning of an argument can be another daunting challenge for people with Alzheimer’s disease. They can interrupt their conversation and forget how to finish it.
4. Disorientation in space and time
Getting lost even near their home, not knowing where they are, or what they are doing there, or where their house is.
The passage of time, the chronology of events and the spatial reference are new challenges for people with Alzheimer’s disease. They slowly lose the notion of days, dates, seasons and time passing.
5. Altered judgment
People with Alzheimer’s disease may have surprising changes in their judgment and decision-making; for example, not recognizing a health problem or dressing warmly during a heat wave.
Their relationship to money and personal hygiene may also change and can lead to inappropriate behaviour.
6. Loss of reasoning and abstraction
The meaning of numbers and the execution of calculations become another challenge.
Patients have attention and concentration issues as well as difficulty performing complex activities. The ability to develop and follow a plan can become difficult; for example, cooking a familiar recipe or paying monthly bills, all of which may require much more time than before.
7. Loss of objects
People with Alzheimer’s disease often misplace objects because they store them in unusual or inappropriate places (e.g.putting the hammer in the dryer).
As a result, they lose things and are unable to find them, even going so far as to accuse others of stealing them.
8. Sudden mood fluctuations or emotional bursts
People with Alzheimer’s disease often become confused, suspicious and fearful, resulting in serious upheaval and sudden and significant changes in mood, whether at home or away.
Sporadic awareness of the deterioration of one’s faculties can also become a great source of anxiety for the sick person and lead to sudden fits of anger.
9. Change of personality
Confusion, fear and mistrust are a lot of people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease; this leads to changes in behaviour and therefore changes in personality.
10. Apathy and loss of interest
Affected individuals tend to close in on themselves and cease their activities: recreation, social club, sports, projects, etc. They avoid social contact, which has become a source of conflict and confusion for them.
The person can sit absentmindedly in a chair for hours, without doing anything.
We hope this post will enlighten you about Alzheimer’s disease and allow you to quickly identify the 10 most common symptoms of this disease.
Other blog posts complement our information on Alzheimer’s disease and the resources and services available to help you cope.
N.B. The information presented above does not in any way constitute a medical or scientific opinion; if in doubt, do consult a health professional.