Alzheimer’s disease (pronounced Alz’-hi-merz) is a progressive, degenerative disease that attacks the brain and results in impaired memory, thinking and behavior. Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia. Dementia is a loss of intellectual function (thinking, remembering and reasoning) so severe that it interferes with an individual’s daily functioning and eventually results in death. AD is the fourth leading cause of death in adults, after heart disease, cancer and stroke. Men and women are affected almost equally. Dr. Alois Alzheimer first described the disease in 1906, since then, researchers have developed a deeper understanding of the changes in the brain (plaques and tangles) and behavioral changes that characterized the disease. Identified risk factors are age and family history. Most people diagnosed with AD are older than age 65; however, AD can occur in people in their 40’s and 50’s.
Is It Alzheimer’s – Ten Warning Signs
1. MEMORY LOSS
One of the most common early signs of dementia is forgetting recently learned information. While it is normal to forget appointments, names or telephone numbers, those with dementia will forget such things more often and not remember them later.
2. DIFFICULTY PERFORMING FAMILIAR TASKS
People with dementia often find it hard to complete everyday tasks that are so familiar we usually do not stop to think about how to do them. A person with Alzheimer's may not know the steps for preparing a meal, using a household appliance or participating in a lifelong hobby.
3. PROBLEMS WITH LANGUAGE
Everyone has trouble finding the right word sometimes, but a person with Alzheimer's disease often forgets simple words or substitutes unusual words, making his or her speech or writing difficult to understand.
4. DISORIENTATION TO TIME AND PLACE
It’s normal to forget the day of the week or your destination for a moment, but people with Alzheimer's disease can become lost on their own street, forget where they are how they got there, and not know how to get back home.
5. POOR OR DECREASED JUDGEMENT
No one has perfect judgment all of the time. Those with Alzheimer's disease may dress without regard to the weather, wearing several shirts on a warm day. Individuals with dementia often show poor judgement about money, giving away large amounts to telemarketers or paying for repairs or products they do not need.
6. PROBLEMS WITH ABSTRACT THINKING
Balancing a checkbook may be hard when the task is more complicated than usual. Someone with Alzheimer's disease can forget completely what the numbers represent and what needs to be done with them.
7. MISPLACING THINGS
Anyone can misplace a wallet or keys, but eventually finds them by thinking over where he or she last used them. A person with Alzheimer's disease may "hide" things and put things in inappropriate places such as a wristwatch in the sugar bowl or money in a book on the shelf.
8. CHANGES IN MOOD OR BEHAVIOR
Everyone has a bad day once in a while, or may become sad or moody from time to time. Someone with Alzheimer's disease can exhibit rapid mood swings - from calm to tears to anger - in a few minutes for no apparent reason.
9. CHANGES IN PERSONALITY
People’s personalities ordinarily change somewhat at different ages, as character traits strengthen or mellow. But a person with Alzheimer's disease can change drastically, becoming extremely confused, irritable, aggressive, suspicious, fearful or fully dependent on a family member.
10. LOSS OF INITIATIVE
It’s normal to tire of housework, business activities or social obligations, but most people regain their initiative. The person with Alzheimer's disease may become passive and require cues and prompting to get involved in activities.