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Alzheimer's Care: What Are the Symptoms to Watch Out For?

As our parents age, a certain degree of forgetfulness is to be expected. Other issues such as advancing technology can also make doing certain everyday tasks difficult, and this can lead to frustration and anger. The big question is how to tell the difference between typical age-related changes and actual dementia-related symptoms? It’s important to know, because if symptoms of Alzheimer’s are detected early enough, interventions can delay the onset or advancement of the condition. In turn, this leads to a longer and more independent lifestyle.

The below outlines how to distinguish between Alzheimer’s and dementia symptoms from age-related changes.

Memory loss

One of the most frequent signs of Alzheimer’s is memory loss. It’s common for those affected to forget important dates such as birthdays or anniversaries or ask the same question several times in a short period. Someone in the early stages of Alzheimer’s may take to using more and more physical cues to remember details, perhaps post-it notes or these days, even on their phone or laptop. However, not all forgetfulness is related to dementia. The difference is that general forgetfulness usually results in remembering again later, for example, a missed doctor’s appointment or someone’s name.

Difficulty with daily tasks

Tasks such as driving to a familiar place, using a spreadsheet after 20 years of experience, or even forgetting the rules of chess or backgammon, can all be signs of dementia-related illnesses. These shouldn’t be confused with trouble involving tasks that were never learned, such as retrieving voice mail messages from a new phone or driving to a new location on unfamiliar roads.

Problems with time and place

People with Alzheimer’s often lose track of the day, week, month or year, or have problems understanding where they are. Alzheimer’s affects a person’s ability to remember events that have immediately happened, and this leads to uncertainties around time and place. However, thinking it is Wednesday and then remembering it is Friday is not a sign of dementia.

Visual images and spatial reasoning

Some people with Alzheimer’s may have trouble understanding common signs and images. This is related to changes in the brain related to determining colours and shapes. Likewise, difficulty judging distance and timing can make driving dangerous.

Losing vocabulary strength in speaking and writing

Using words to describe an object, rather than using its common noun name, can often be a sign of early onset dementia. Someone might call a ‘torch’ a ‘hand light’, for example, or struggle to make themselves understood in conversations, and these signs need to be recognised. Simply struggling to find the right word, before eventually finding it, is not connected to Alzheimer’s.

Dulcie’s care story

Duclie is one of our longest serving customers. In this video her and her family talk through their decision to arrange care in the home rather than the care home.

Poor judgment

It can be heart-wrenching to see a previously careful and cautious parent suddenly make rash and unwise decisions. A loss of brain function can make analysing arguments stressful, and many people with Alzheimer’s would rather jump to a decision to avoid the discomfort. A typical scenario would be a sales or telemarketer asking for a large sum of money for a service or charity, and the person giving them the money. That said, everyone makes a bad decision occasionally.

Withdrawing from company, changes in personality

Unsurprisingly, those with Alzheimer’s often feel confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful and frightened. These feelings can lead them to behaviours that appear unsocial, such as turning down invitations or wanting to leave events quickly. However, this is a very difficult situation to judge as many older people may have just found comfortable routines that they don’t wish to change. Sustained demands to become involved in events they know they won’t enjoy can feel like invasions of privacy and independence. In this case, it’s best to consider all the symptoms together.

Caring for those with Alzheimer’s

If your elderly loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, what can you do to help them maintain their level of independent living? Alzheimer’s care and dementia care can be a full-time job, and sadly, for many, the onset of dementia means leaving their home for a care home environment. Private live-in care may be a preferable option, but what does this involve?

Private care for those with Alzheimer’s

Home care, provided via live-in care, is in many cases the best way to provide elderly care for those with dementia. At home, your loved one remains in a familiar setting, and with 24/7 care, they can continue to do many of the activities they previously enjoyed, with a sense of security.

In-home care providers will arrange for trained professionals to come and live at your loved one’s home (or at your home if your parent lives with you) for one- or two-week shifts at a time. These carers are experienced professionals in dementia and elderly care. They undertake a range of tasks to ensure your loved one is safe and comfortable. These range from the most basic, like helping with washing, toileting and dressing, to shopping and cooking and helping them get out and about.

An Alzheimer’s diagnosis doesn’t have to mean the end of your parent’s normal way of life. Research shows that continuing to lead an active and social lifestyle is one of the best ways of managing dementia and Alzheimer’s. With a live-in carer offering 24/7 care, your loved one can continue to enjoy their freedom and independence at home for much longer.

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