Alzheimer’s Awareness Month: Know the signs. Care for loved ones. Find support.

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Understanding Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, affecting over 3 million people every year. Dementia causes memory loss and changes to thinking, reasoning, and behavior. This disease touches many people and their family members, so it is vital to learn the symptoms so that treatment can begin as soon as possible. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s, but early treatments can slow the progression and improve the quality of life for those afflicted. 

Below, we discuss Alzheimer’s disease and dementia so that more people are aware of the symptoms and the need for further research about this disease.


What is Alzheimer’s disease?

The Mayo Clinic defines Alzheimer’s disease as “a progressive disorder that causes brain cells to waste away (degenerate) and die. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia — a continuous decline in thinking, behavioral and social skills that disrupts a person’s ability to function independently.”


What are the signs of Alzheimer’s disease?

One of the first signs of this disease is the inability to remember something recently learned. This is because the disease usually begins in the part of the brain that deals with learning. 

However, as the disease progresses, it affects many more cognitive functions, causing signs and symptoms that vary from one person to the next: 

  • Memory: With Alzheimer’s disease, there is considerable memory loss that can affect a person’s ability to function. You may notice people with Alzheimer’s repeating statements or questions over and over. They may forget conversations and appointments, misplace things in strange places, get lost in familiar places, and even forget the names of family members and objects. 
  • Thinking and reasoning: A person with Alzheimer’s disease will have difficulty concentrating and thinking, especially when it comes to dealing with numbers. They will find it difficult to manage finances or pay bills on time.  
  • Making decisions and performing everyday tasks: Alzheimer’s may cause people to make poor decisions in everyday situations and interactions with other people. They may have difficulty responding to things quickly, like food burning on the stove or getting cut-off in traffic. As the disease progresses, people with Alzheimer’s disease may no longer remember how to perform basic tasks, like cooking a meal or bathing. 
  • Changes in Personality and Behavior: Alzheimer’s causes changes in the brain that can present as depression, apathy, social withdrawal, mood swings, distrust, wandering, and delusions.

Even though Alzheimer’s inhibits memory and reason, many skills are maintained as other symptoms get worse. According to Mayo Clinic, “preserved skills may include reading or listening to books, telling stories and reminiscing, singing, listening to music, dancing, drawing, or doing crafts.” Although, these skills are often lost as the disease affects other parts of the brain in the later course of the disease.


Caring for loved ones 

Alzheimer’s exhibits different symptoms and progresses differently for each individual. It is important that caretakers understand that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to caring for someone with this disease. Mayo Clinic has an overview of practical tips for how to help your loved ones. 

The most important thing to remember is that patience and flexibility are essential, but so is caring for yourself. There is also plenty of support out there for caregivers, so no one has to deal with these challenges alone. 


If you are concerned about memory loss or diminishing thinking skills in yourself or a loved one, set up an appointment with your doctor for a thorough assessment. You can also contact us to discuss memory care options.