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What are the signs of Alzheimer’s?

15 September 2020

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September is World Alzheimer’s Month. This vitally important international campaign raises awareness and challenges the stigma that surrounds Alzheimer’s, which is the most common form of dementia, affecting many millions of people aged 65 and older.

Alzheimer’s is the most common causes of dementia (which is a general term for a group of symptoms that affect memory and thinking and which interfere with daily life). Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease. It is important to recognise the problem as soon as possible, so that the best possible medical and nursing care can be provided and long-term plans discussed and put in place. To help you know what to look out for, we’ve listed five of the early indicators of Alzheimer’s to look out for.

Alzheimer’s affects each individual in a different way, so one person may not experience the same symptoms as another. If you notice one or more of the things discussed below, either in yourself or in a loved one or friend, get in touch with a doctor. Alzheimer’s is challenging for both the person living with the disease and those close to them. Your doctor will be able to confirm whether or not the disease is present and, if it is, give you the reassurance and support that you will need going forward.

Changes in short-term memory

Alzheimer’s can affect a person’s speech and vision in a number of ways. In the early stages, those affected often find it difficult to ‘find the right word’ or follow a conversation, later their talk may be jumbled up and not make much sense. Another sign of Alzheimer’s linked to vision is the ability to judge space and therefore can result in falls. In some cases, people with the disease suffer from hallucinations.

Changes in movement and behaviour

In its early stages, Alzheimer’s can affect how people judge distances. This can make activities such as parking a car or going up stairs harder. People living with Alzheimer’s can also have difficulty balancing. In terms of behaviour, it can cause disturbed sleep and mean that people wake up at night. It can also cause them to walk around obsessively, leave the house unexpectedly and get disorientated and lost.

Changes in mood

In the first stages of Alzheimer’s, many people experience a change in mood, becoming depressed, irritable or anxious. Their personality might also change. They may become withdrawn and lose interest in socialising or hobbies. As Alzheimer’s progresses, people can become unpredictable and aggressive, which can be especially upsetting for loved ones.

Problems with decision making

People in the early stages of Alzheimer’s can have problems concentrating, solving problems and making plans and decisions. For example, it can become a challenge to follow the steps necessary to cook a meal. Alzheimer’s can also lead to impaired judgement, for example, in relation to money matters.