November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month
National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month has taken place each November since 1983. The month honors those who are living with Alzheimer’s, advocates for a cure, and promotes awareness and education about the disease for which there is currently no cure.
In 2021, there are more 6 million American’s who are living with Alzheimer’s. That number is projected to rise to nearly 13 million by 2050 unless medical treatments are developed to prevent, slow or cure the disease.
The early signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease vary from person to person but commonly include some of these indicators:
- Memory Loss: We all occasionally forget names, appointments or where we left the car keys, but a person with Alzheimer’s disease typically forgets dates, events and information they just learned, and they may begin asking repetitive questions.
- Difficulty with Familiar Tasks: It becomes difficult to complete everyday tasks, like the steps involved in following a recipe, putting the wash in the washing machine, making a phone call, or forgetting how to play a favorite card game.
- Language Problems: They may forget simple words or be unable to use the correct word when speaking or writing. For instance, instead of asking where their shoes are, they make ask for “those things that go on my feet”.
- Confusion with Time or Place: People with Alzheimer’s disease often don’t know what day or month it is. They often don’t know where they are and can’t find their way home, making it unsafe for them to drive or even walk around their own neighborhood alone.
- Decreased or Poor Judgment: They may dress inappropriately, such as wearing a wool sweater on a hot day or going out on a below freezing day without a coat, hat and gloves. Personal hygiene may suffer. They might make poor decisions about money or falling victim to scams.
- Misplacing Things: Occasionally forgetting where you put your cell phone or your purse happens to everyone, but people with Alzheimer’s disease put things in inappropriate places, like storing the coffee pot in the freezer or placing their earrings in the sugar bowl.
- Mood & Personality Changes: Individuals with Alzheimer’s disease may have rapid mood swings for no apparent reason, such as being calm one moment and suddenly bursting into tears or flying into a rage. Or the person who is usually sunny and outgoing, may suddenly become withdrawn, anxious and suspicious.
- Withdrawal from Work or Social Activities: They may sleep more than usual, be unable to hold a conversation or be uninterested in participating in any activities, such as hobbies they used to enjoy.
The difference between “normal aging and forgetfulness” and Alzheimer’s is that Alzheimer’s significantly impacts the person’s daily life in negative ways. Check out “The 10 Early Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease” at alz.org.
If you notice one or more of the early warning signs in yourself or a loved one, make an appointment with your health care provider to discuss your concerns and request an evaluation. Early diagnosis affords time for planning, spending quality time with loved ones and building a support network to help as the symptoms progress.
Mary Bates, MS, CT, is a Certified Dementia Practitioner. She is the Assisted Living and Memory Care Director of Summit by Morrison, a senior living community offering independent living, assisted living, memory care, and respite care.
Through this column, Mary will share the experience, knowledge, and resources she and her team rely on, anticipating that it will be useful for anyone living with, caring for, or coming into contact with a person with dementia. Send your questions to Understanding Dementia at Summit, 56 Summit Drive, Whitefield, NH 03598 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Mary will share information and answer as many questions as possible through this column.