Five Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s and Dementia
Cassandra Lucas-Moore, Senior Services of Southwest Michigan was a guest on “Miles for Memory Moment” on the WBCK Morning Show with Tim Collins to talk about warning signs of memory loss and Alzheimer’s.
Problems with Time & Place
In addition to memory loss, problems with decision making, and problem-solving, Lucas-Moore said people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias often have confusion with time and place. “They may lose track of the time of day or lose track of days, or weeks, or even lose track of a whole season. They have trouble understanding something if it’s not happening immediately. For instance, learning of a doctor’s appointment a week away can lead to the constant questioning of when they need to leave for that appointment.” Lucas-Moore added that once they are at the appointment, they may be confused while waiting to be called into the office, thinking they’ve been waiting for hours when it’s only been minutes. They may also be confused about where they are and even how they got there. Caregivers may get frustrated at this, but Lucas-Moore said that it’s important to just calmly repeat the correct information, as often as necessary.
Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
Reading, judging distances, determining color and contrast become difficult. Lucas-Moore said “If your loved one is still driving, these symptoms may be even more important to address. Judging the distance between vehicles or how soon they will reach the corner to turn could result in a serious accident.” She notes however that it’s important to note that these symptoms may also be connected to eye problems such as cataracts, so an eye exam might be in order. Start with the eye exam to rule out a vision issue.
Trouble with words when speaking or writing
A person may be unable to follow or join in a conversation and may stop in the middle of a sentence, having no idea how to continue. “They may have trouble finding the right word and might refer to the refrigerator as a ‘food place’ or even a call it by an unrelated word such as ‘house.’ They might also lose the ability to write a note or a check or even sign their name.”
Misplacing things and being unable to retrace their steps to find them
Lucas-Moore said “We all misplace things from time to time, but with the dementia patient, it’s probably a case of them putting something in what seems to them to be a safe place at the time, and then not remembering where that safe place is. And, if they can’t find something, they may accuse others of stealing it. This may occur more frequently over time – as will all of the warning signs.”
Difficulty completing familiar tasks
If we forget the rules to a card game that we haven’t played in a long time – no big deal. Someone with Alzheimer’s may no longer remember the rules to the game they’ve played regularly for years or even played yesterday. Going for a walk or driving to - or home from, a familiar destination like a good friend’s house or the grocery store can turn become impossible.
Lucas-Moore reminds us that all of these problems when they happen now and then could be nothing more than typical age-related changes. It’s when it happens often enough to disrupt daily life—that’s when we need to seek professional advice.