Do You Know the Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease?

Published: 22/05/2019

Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia in the UK. Although many people know that memory loss is a symptom of the disease, our blog looks at other signs that you might not know about.

According to research statistics, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, accounting for two thirds of the estimated 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK. It’s a progressive form of dementia in which substances known as plaques form in the brain, interrupting the normal brain signals and causing the loss of brain cells. As with any disease, early diagnosis is important. Prompt intervention and support can help reduce the rate of cognitive decline in many cases. That’s why it’s so important for us all to be able to spot the symptoms in ourselves and others.
 

Recognising the early stages of Alzheimer's disease

Let’s face it, we all lose our car keys, take the odd wrong turn and forget the word for something now and again. The early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are often explained away as innocent blunders, especially when the behaviours are exhibited by older people. It’s often put down to the belief that we have a natural tendency to become a bit more forgetful in old age. While an isolated incident now and again is no cause for concern, a pattern of events and symptoms does need more investigation. This is especially true in the elderly population as Alzheimer’s disease primarily affects people over the age of 65.

Memory problems are often the first and most noticeable sign of the disease. The person may have trouble recalling special occasions, ask for the same information repeatedly or struggle to recall what happened yesterday. Short-term memories are the first to be affected. Someone may easily remember what they were doing on their 10th birthday but have trouble remembering what they had for lunch yesterday. Contrary to popular belief, living with Alzheimer’s involves much more than losing your short-term memory. Other early symptoms to look out for include:
  • Language problems – repetition, regularly having difficulty recalling the right word to describe familiar objects or losing track of conversations can indicate cognitive loss. Having uncharacteristic difficulties with reading or writing is also something to look out for.
  • Losing things – again, we all misplace things but doing it on a regular basis and not being able to retrace your steps logically can indicate cognitive problems.
  • Changes in behaviour – if someone you know exhibits sudden or marked changes in their normal behaviour it’s a sign something might be wrong. Becoming more emotional or withdrawn, showing poor judgement, neglecting personal hygiene or not doing hobbies or activities that they love can be indicators.
  • Finding familiar daily tasks more difficult – if getting dressed, doing the crossword or making a cup of tea are more of a challenge, it could indicate problems with executive functions like planning and problem solving. For example, the person may start doing the steps of a particular task out of sequence or struggle to remember what’s next.
  • Disorientation – not knowing what day or time it is happens to all of us occasionally, but being confused about where you are, the date or even the season could be cause for concern.
  • Clumsiness – people with Alzheimer’s often have problems with their visual and spatial awareness, so things like driving, navigating steps or judging where to put a cup down on a table, for example, can become more difficult.
Looked at in isolation, some of these symptoms might have a simple explanation. Although one symptom here and there is normal for all of us, seeing a combination of these signs on a regular basis requires further investigation by a doctor. Although there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease at the moment, there are medications, care strategies and support systems in place that enable many people with Alzheimer’s to live well for many years. If we’re all alert to the signs of Alzheimer’s, we can help maintain quality of life for those we care for.

If you’d like more information on Alzheimer’s disease, visit the Alzheimer’s Society website for resources, advice and support.

To find out how our dementia care services in Clapham and Streatham could help you and your family, get in touch.