Most age-related problems are evidence of a slowdown in the brain's processing as it struggles to retrieve information. As a person ages, the brain’s ability to divide attention between several tasks also declines, which can interfere with the process of storing new memories.
While it’s easy to brush off a few memory lapses to normal ageing, there are some common warning signs of Alzheimer’s Disease that should not be ignored.
Alzheimer’s Disease is a progressive and irreversible, brain disorder that affects a person’s memory and other cognitive (mental) processes, to the point where performing routine tasks becomes a challenge. In late-onset Alzheimer’s, symptoms begin to appear in the mid 60’s. The rarer form called early-onset Alzheimer’s can begin between the age of 30-60.
Early Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease
If you or someone you love is experiencing one or more of the following symptoms talk to your doctor:
Trouble Remembering Things
At first, only short-term memory may be affected, with long-term memory issues developing later. It could be simple things like forgetting an appointment or the name of a new acquaintance. Some people lose track of important dates and events, for example, their children’s birthdays or their wedding anniversary. Also, another sign could be that the person repeatedly asks for the same information and begins to rely on memory aids such as reminders or notes around the house.
Failing to recall specific instances which were previously easily remembered can be a sign of dementia; which is one of the key indicators of Alzheimer’s.
Mood or Personality Changes
It’s natural for people to slow down as they grow old and some people prefer to avoid social gatherings if sight and hearing have become troublesome. Also, the elderly are inclined to give up on physical activities, often finding them too challenging.
However, changes in a person’s basic disposition and temperament that are not in line with their regular behaviour or routine may be early signs of Alzheimer’s. For instance, someone who was previously social and outgoing may become detached, or someone who was once cheerful may become stubborn, distrustful, angry, or sad. Alzheimer's Disease often co-occurs with depression, causing such symptoms to manifest in the form of disinterest in a favourite hobby or activity, a change in appetite, insomnia, lack of energy, or hopelessness.
Trouble Completing Ordinary Tasks
Some people may experience problems with concentration and simple tasks (that were previously done without effort) can suddenly become challenging. Forgetting routine things like how to use the oven, lock the door or even forgetting how to get dressed can signal the onset of Alzheimer’s. The ability to drive safely may also be called into question; if your loved one gets lost while driving a commonly travelled route, this may be a symptom of AD.
Difficulty Expressing Thoughts
One of the key signs of Alzheimer’s Disease is having trouble with language. A person may try describing the object instead of using its name, for example, they may end up calling the telephone the “ ringer” or “that thing I call people with.” Reading or writing may also be impaired and initiating or joining in on a conversation may become a task.
Difficulty With Planning or Problem-solving
If someone displays a pattern of difficulties with making plans and following them through, then it could indicate a larger cognitive problem. Furthermore, if a person seems to have trouble following simple recipes that they have been using for years, or finds it hard to carry out detailed tasks which involve numerical calculations, it may be time to consult a doctor to check for Alzheimer’s.
The exact cause of Alzheimer’s Disease has not been defined yet but researchers believe that it develops as the result of multiple factors, including genetic precursors.