Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia

As people age, memory issues become more common. But how do you know if you or someone you know is showing signs of a type of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease? Although a medical evaluation is the surest way to determine the reason for memory loss, the following guidelines may help you determine if it’s time for an evaluation.

Dementia Risk Factors

People are more prone to developing dementia if they are over the age of 65, have a family history of the disease, or mild cognitive impairment. Other risk factors for dementia that people can change include:

  • Heavy alcohol use
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Sleep apnea

Dementia Symptoms

Depending on the cause, dementia symptoms can vary, although common signs of cognitive changes include:

  • Memory loss, typically noticed by a relative or friend
  • Difficulty communicating or finding words
  • Difficulty reasoning or problem-solving
  • Difficulty handling complex tasks
  • Difficulty planning and organizing
  • Difficulty with coordination and motor functions
  • Confusion and disorientation

In addition, psychological changes can include personality changes, depression, anxiety, inappropriate behavior, paranoia, agitation, and hallucinations.

Dementia Types

These following types of progressive dementia continually worsen and aren’t reversible:

  • Alzheimer’s disease: This common form of dementia accounts for 60 to 80 percent of cases and is a slowly progressive disease that begins long before symptoms develop.
  • Vascular dementia: This second most common type of dementia is caused by damage to blood vessels that provide blood to the brain, often a result of stroke.
  • Lewy body dementia: Abnormal clumps of protein found in the brain can cause this common type of progressive dementia, as well as Parkinson’s dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Frontotemporal dementia: This group of diseases shows degeneration of nerve cells in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain, areas connected to personality, behavior, and language.

Other conditions such as Huntington’s disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Parkinson’s disease, and traumatic brain injuries also can cause dementia.

Early Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease

The Alzheimer’s Association reports that Alzheimer’s causes a slow decline in memory, thinking, and reasoning skills and offers 10 warning signs and symptoms of the disease. If you or someone you know displays one or more of these symptoms in varying degrees, schedule an appointment with a doctor for evaluation.

  1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life: forgetting recently learned information, important dates or events, asking the same questions repeatedly, increasing use of memory aids (e.g., reminder notes or electronic devices) or family members to handle tasks previously done on their own.
    Age- related change: sometimes forgetting names or appointments but remembering them later.
  2. Challenges in planning or solving problems: difficulty developing and following a plan, following a familiar recipe, tracking monthly bills, or working with numbers. Familiar activities take longer to complete.
    Age-related change: occasional checkbook balancing errors.
  3. Difficulty with completing familiar tasks: problems with driving to a known location, managing a budget at home or at work, and remembering the rules of a favorite game.
    Age-related change: occasionally needing help to use a microwave or record a TV show.
  4. Confusion with time or place: losing track of dates, seasons, passage of time and forgetting where they are or how they got there.
    Age-related change: confusion about the day of the week but knowing it later.
  5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships: difficulty reading, judging distance, and determining color or contrast, which can create issues with driving.
    Age-related change: vision issues because of cataracts. 
  6. Problems speaking or writing: getting lost in a conversation and not knowing how to continue or repeating themselves; laboring to find the right word or label items incorrectly.
    Age-related change: sometimes struggling to recall the correct word.
  7. Misplacing things and getting lost: placing items in unusual places or losing things and being unable to retrace their steps to locate them; accusing others of stealing items, a behavior that may increase over time.
    Age-related change: occasionally misplacing items but can retrace steps to find them.
  8. Decreased or poor judgment: changes in judgment or decision making (e.g. giving large sums of money to strangers) and less care in grooming and cleanliness.
    Age-related change: making occasional bad decisions.
  9. Withdrawal from work or activities: retreating from hobbies, social activities, work projects, or sports because they cannot remember how to do them.
    Age-related change: sometimes wishing to forego these activities. 
  10. Changes in mood or personality: becoming confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful, or anxious, as well as easily upset at home or work, with friends, or in places they aren’t comfortable.
    Age-related change: becoming irritable about disrupted routines.

Dementia Prevention Strategies

Although dementia may not be completely preventable, some activities may help. Keep your mind active with reading and puzzles. Be socially and physically active; try to exercise 150 minutes weekly. Stop smoking. Get enough Vitamin D from foods, supplements, and the sun. Keep your blood pressure low. Eat a healthy diet full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and omega-3 fatty acids fond in fish and nuts.

Memory Care at Courville

Courville Communities provides integrated memory care for our residents in an environment that is as unrestricted as possible, enabling them to live in the moment and enjoy a positive, supportive experience. Many of our staff members are trained in providing dementia care, including therapeutic recreation and reminiscent activities for residents. In addition, our support groups for family and friends provide education on dementia and valuable encouragement and guidance in interacting with loved ones with memory loss.

 

 

 

Sources:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dementia/symptoms-causes/syc-20352013

https://www.alz.org/dementia/types-of-dementia.asp

https://www.alz.org/10-signs-symptoms-alzheimers-dementia.asp

 

 

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