Signs of Alzheimer’s and Dementia in Aging Parents

Lindsay Knake

| 3 min read

Alzheimer's disease and dementia are difficult, painful experiences for those who have them and for their loved ones.
Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and, eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks. People with Alzheimer’s also experience changes in behavior and personality, according to the National Institutes of Health. The disease is the leading cause of dementia, which includes a decline in memory, thinking, behavior, and social skills, according to the Mayo Clinic. In the United States, about 6.5 million people age 65 and older have Alzheimer's.
Dementia, which interferes with a person’s daily life, is a symptom of several diseases and injuries such as Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and traumatic brain injury. Forms of dementia include:
  • Vascular dementia
  • Lewy body dementia
  • Frontotemporal dementia
Dementia may affect other parts of your thinking, such as your ability to solve problems or use words the right way. Depending on the type of dementia, these problems may happen suddenly or slowly over months or years.
Signs of Alzheimer's and dementia include:

Memory loss

The main sign of both Alzheimer's and dementia is memory loss, particularly short-term memory loss.
People with Alzheimer's and dementia may:
  • Forget appointments and conversations
  • Repeat questions and statements
  • Forget words and names of objects
  • Get lost easily in familiar places
  • Misplace their things
  • Forget the names of family members
  • Losing track of dates or knowing current location
  • Poor judgement, leading to bad decisions
Even though memory problems are typically one of the first signs of Alzheimer’s, not all memory problems mean a person has the disease. Some forgetfulness is normal as we age, like forgetting names, dates, and events and remembering them later. However, memory loss associated with Alzheimer's and dementia worsens over time.

Difficulty doing tasks

People with Alzheimer's and dementia may have trouble with daily tasks, such as managing finances, creating a grocery list, and cooking familiar meals. They may take longer to complete those tasks and struggle to concentrate.

Physical changes

Alzheimer's and dementia can cause changes to someone’s vision, balance, ability to judge a distance. All of those symptoms can make it difficult for a person with dementia to drive a vehicle. The vision decline and memory loss can also affect reading.

Decision making

A person with dementia may struggle with judgment and decision making, including managing money and personal grooming.

Withdrawal and isolation

As the disease progresses, someone with dementia may struggle to have a conversation and then remove themselves from social situations and activities. The memory loss, confusion, and inability to find words is an isolating experience.

Mood and personality changes

Alzheimer's and dementia can have an impact on a person’s mood and personality, leading them to become confused, easily upset, anxious, confused, suspicious, delusional, and depressed. They can have difficulty adjusting to changes or dealing with doctor’s appointments or major life changes.

Treatment options

While there is no cure, in recent years, significant progress has been made toward developing better treatments for people living with Alzheimer’s. Several medications are now available to treat symptoms and slow the disease in some people. Coping strategies are also available to help manage behavioral symptoms.
Dementia caused from progressive brain disorders is the same. Dementia-like symptoms are reversible if the cause is infection, medication side effects, low levels of certain nutrients, and metabolic and endocrine problems.
Staying physically and mentally active can delay the onset of dementia and Alzheimer's, according to a study. Doing puzzles and memory exercises, playing instruments, and doing exercises that involve hand-eye coordination can help people stay fit.

A Healthier Michigan is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.
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