By 2031 there will be a projected 1.4 million Canadians living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. The number has been steadily rising and more and more families will continue to be affected.
No one wants to believe a family member may have dementia; but early diagnosis is crucial in maintaining the continuity and the quality of life that people with Alzheimer’s and dementia need to thrive.
Environment, diet, medication, and support all play vital roles in making sure the patient can continue to live a meaningful life post diagnosis.
Here are 5 early warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease, as well as some resources for treatment.
1. Memory Loss
Memory loss affecting day to day activities is the symptom most people will think of when talking about dementia. This shouldn’t be confused with regular age related changes such as temporarily forgetting where you parked or blanking on a phone number. Think more along the lines of having to ask for the same information repeatedly, having a hard time retaining new information, and forgetting things often.
2. Changes in Mood or Behaviour
This is one of the harder aspects of dementia to deal with and can be harder to ignore than other warning signs. This can manifest with bursts of anger or frustration, uncharacteristic language or actions, and changes in temper. Another aspect of this can be lapses in “good judgment” such as dressing improperly for weather or putting off seeing the doctor.
3. Time, Space, and Language
Losing your bearings in the shopping mall you have been going to for decades, forgetting what day (or month, or year) it is, misplacing words constantly; all of these are early indicators of dementia. They can also be very normal age related changes, what used to be called “senior moments”. Separately and infrequently these symptoms aren’t necessarily an indication of dementia or Alzheimer’s, but the best way to know for sure is to speak with your doctor or seek a referral to a specialist.
4. Misplacing Things
Putting your hairbrush in the oven or your watch in the freezer? Consistently leaving things in places that make no sense can be an early indication of dementia, but can also be absent mindedness. Thought should be given to historical behaviour before you start to worry.
5. Personality Changes
Changes in personality or initiative can hit families hard. Mum suddenly losing interest in hosting family dinners, or Dad becoming increasingly paranoid about strangers can be heart breaking. Drastic personality changes don’t happen without reason and usually not in a short period of time, so if your usually bubbly, outgoing family member is suddenly reserved, introverted and quiet it may be cause for concern.
Something to keep in mind; a huge number of dementia cases go undiagnosed for far longer that they should. It is easy to write off symptoms and early signs as age related absent mindedness, but diet, hormonal changes, depression and a host of other factors can influence things like memory and mood. If you feel like something is off, don’t wait; contact you doctor.
If you or a loved one is experiencing early symptoms of alzheimer’s or dementia, click here for more information, referrals, and support.
You can also check out the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada’s Diagnosis toolkit by clicking here, it is a 5 page self help kit that includes questionnaires to bring with you to a doctor’s appointment, as well as some great resources.