Normal Aging or Alzheimer’s? Here’s What to Look For
As your loved one ages, it’s normal to notice some changes in their cognitive abilities. However, it’s important to understand the difference between normal aging and signs of Alzheimer’s in order to accommodate your loved one’s changing needs. The memory care experts at Placita In Home Care are here to help you understand and detect the symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
Assessing Alzheimer’s Care Needs
Alzheimer’s symptoms may range from one person to the next. The most common trait of Alzheimer’s is memory issues, which are generally one of the first symptoms of Alzheimer’s. There may be other forms of cognitive decline as well, such as the inability to find the right word when speaking, challenges with understanding visual or spatial relationships, and a decline in reasoning or judgment. As Alzheimer’s progresses, these cognitive symptoms may become more prevalent or severe and you may also notice heightened confusion or various behavioural changes.
The Stages of Alzheimer’s
Early onset Alzheimer’s may begin as early as 30 years old; however, this form is fairly uncommon. With age comes a higher chance of late onset Alzheimer’s, which typically begins during the mid to late 60s. Alzheimer’s is known to progress clinically in stages, including preclinical, mild (which is also referred to as the early-stage) moderate, and severe (also called late-stage) Alzheimer’s. With each stage, symptoms may look different and have varying degrees of severity.
Preclinical Stage Alzheimer’s
Studies have shown that the intricate brain changes seen in Alzheimer’s disease, including the development of amyloid plaques or tau tangles, begin at least a decade before the commonly known traits of cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer’s appear. The stage responsible for these complex changes is known as the preclinical stage of Alzheimer’s. However, not every person who experiences the brain changes involved in the preclinical stage will develop Alzheimer’s.
Mild Stage Alzheimer’s
Mild Alzheimer’s may be displayed as a seemingly healthy person who is quietly having trouble fully grasping the things going on around them. Mild Alzheimer’s may be difficult to detect and typically takes time for the person and their loved ones to recognize a need for Alzheimer’s care. In most cases, the mild stage of Alzheimer’s is the stage in which a person will be diagnosed with the disease. It is also the time where many families seek additional memory care resources to accommodate their loved one’s changing needs.
Symptoms of Mild Stage Alzheimer’s
The symptoms of mild Alzheimer’s differ from those of moderate or severe Alzheimer’s. Frequently seen symptoms of mild Alzheimer’s include the following changes:
- Memory loss that disrupts the way one lives their daily life
- Lapse in judgment that leads to unfavorable choices
- Decline in spontaneity and initiative
- Difficulty remembering dates or locations
- Prolonged time to complete simple tasks
- Repetition or forgetfulness
- Challenges with managing finances
- Wandering or getting lost in familiar areas
- Misplacing belongings or losing things
- Decline in personal hygiene or grooming
- Behavior, mood, or personality changes
- Heightened anxiety, irritability, or aggression
Moderate Stage Alzheimer’s
Moderate stage Alzheimer’s is an intensified stage of the disease. Moderate Alzheimer’s requires more careful supervision, as a person navigating this disease may have greater difficulty caring for themselves. The unique challenges associated with moderate stage Alzheimer’s can be troubling for loved ones, but can be facilitated with the help of in-home care or memory care assistance.
Symptoms of Moderate Stage Alzheimer’s
Moderate stage Alzheimer’s symptoms may include:
- Confusion and memory loss that may include forgetting events or personal memories
- Withdrawn behavior and avoidance of social activities
- Difficulty or inability to learn new things
- Trouble with language, reading, writing, or numbers
- Challenges with organizing their thoughts or using logic
- Reduced attention span
- Inability or reluctance to accept new situations
- Changing sleep patterns, including more sleep during the day and restlessness at night
- Problems with multi-step tasks, including getting ready for the day and dressing
- Challenges recognizing loved ones
- Paranoia, delusions, or hallucinations
- Impulsive tendencies, including using vulgar language or undressing in front of others
- Unwarranted emotional outbursts
- Irritability, agitation, anxiety, wandering, or tearfulness, predominantly in the afternoon or evening
- Repetition of words or movements
Severe Stage Alzheimer’s
People with severe stage or late-stage Alzheimer’s often lose the ability to communicate, leaving them dependent on their loved ones for Alzheimer’s care. This stage is often experienced toward the end of life, and the person may begin spending more time in bed. Many families choose to pursue hospice care during late-stage Alzheimer’s to ensure their loved one is comfortable and at peace.
Symptoms of Severe Stage Alzheimer’s
The symptoms of late-stage Alzheimer’s disease include the following:
- Loss of communication abilities
- No recognition or retention of recent experiences or surroundings
- Weight loss and inability or disinterest in eating
- Physical decline, including dental and skin issues or foot problems
- Challenges swallowing
- Unusual noises, such as grunting or groaning
- More time spent sleeping
- Incontinence or loss of bladder control
Mild Cognitive Impairment
Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a condition that may indicate the early signs of Alzheimer’s. However, it is possible for a person to experience mild cognitive impairment due to age while never developing Alzheimer’s or dementia. When a person has mild cognitive impairment, they may have trouble with certain tasks, but will not lose the ability to care for themselves or conduct their daily activities.
The Symptoms of Mild Cognitive Impairment
A person with mild cognitive impairment may display the following symptoms:
- They often lose or misplace things
- They forget to attend appointments or events
- They struggle to find the right word when communicating
When to Seek Professional Assistance
If you recognize the symptoms of Alzheimer’s or cognitive impairment in a loved one, such as reoccurring forgetfulness or a loss of ability to communicate as they once did, it may be in your loved one’s best interest to speak with their doctor. A doctor may observe your loved one’s condition by asking questions and performing specialized tests to assess the symptoms and determine the root cause. In some cases, a doctor may refer your loved one to a neurologist to further observe the brain changes they are experiencing.
When a loved one is facing the unique challenges of Alzheimer’s disease, your family may feel strain trying to care for them alone. In-home Alzheimer’s care can offer support and fulfillment through your family’s journey with Alzheimer’s. It is uniquely designed to accommodate the person with memory care needs in the comfort of a familiar place, such as their home or the home of a family member. Alzheimer’s care can be for mild to late-stage Alzheimer’s, providing assistance with social and mental stimulation, home safety, light housekeeping, and many other factors to ensure your loved one is safe and your family is supported.
Get the Support You Need With Placita In Home Care
If you or a loved one is navigating the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, Placita In Home Care is here to help. Our professional caregivers offer personalized in-home assistance designed to accommodate your loved one’s unique memory care needs to ensure they are happy, healthy, and well taken care of while also providing support and guidance to the family. Contact our compassionate team to learn more about our in-home Alzheimer’s care today.