Early intervention can slow the progression of Alzheimer’s

Published: Apr. 3, 2023 at 10:44 AM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - Some memory loss is a normal part of aging, but when memory loss interferes with your daily life and functioning, it can be a sign of something greater, like Alzheimer’s.

Lisa Berry is the Walk & Constituent Events Manager at the Alzheimer’s Association, Wisconsin Chapter and Bonnie Marschall is the Walk Committee Co-Chair. They joined Sunrise 7 on Monday to discuss signs of Alzheimer’s and how intervention can help.

Berry said some of the signs could be subtle, or some are quite obvious.

“It can be things like, maybe you were a cribbage player, and now you can’t figure out how to play cribbage. You’re losing things and you can’t retrace your steps. The biggies that are first noticed are money management, and hygiene. Often financial institutions and financial advisors are the first to spot this. And some do get trained in this because the person isn’t maybe paying their bills or making some kind of sketchy decisions regarding their money management. So you might notice your loved one not really taking care of their hygiene how they normally would,” said Berry.

Marschall explained her mother has dementia. Her family became concerned she went to a former residence after the service.

“She goes to church every Sunday, same route. And after the service, she got in her car and headed home. Except she didn’t go to her current home, she went to the home where she grew up,” she explained.

She also said her mother loved to cook and bake and then suddenly lost that desire.

Berry said early diagnosis is key.

“There are so many interventions that can slow the progression and can improve the quality of your life. At the Alzheimer’s Association, we even have a web tool where you can answer a short survey and it will complete a complete action plan for you, guiding you what to do with the resources. We have support groups going on and programs in the area that people can attend as well as for families,” said Berry.

1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life

One of the most common signs of Alzheimer’s disease, especially in the early stage, is forgetting recently learned information. Others include forgetting important dates or events, asking the same questions over and over, and increasingly needing to rely on memory aids (e.g., reminder notes or electronic devices) or family members for things they used to handle on their own.

What’s a typical age-related change?

Sometimes forgetting names or appointments, but remembering them later.

2. Challenges in planning or solving problems

Some people living with dementia may experience changes in their ability to develop and follow a plan or work with numbers. They may have trouble following a familiar recipe or keeping track of monthly bills. They may have difficulty concentrating and take much longer to do things than they did before.

What’s a typical age-related change?

Making occasional errors when managing finances or household bills.

3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks

People with Alzheimer’s often find it hard to complete daily tasks. Sometimes they may have trouble driving to a familiar location, organizing a grocery list or remembering the rules of a favorite game.

What’s a typical age-related change?

Occasionally needing help to use microwave settings or to record a TV show.

4. Confusion with time or place

People living with Alzheimer’s can lose track of dates, seasons and the passage of time. They may have trouble understanding something if it is not happening immediately. Sometimes they may forget where they are or how they got there.

What’s a typical age-related change?

Getting confused about the day of the week but figuring it out later.

5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships

For some people, having vision problems is a sign of Alzheimer’s. This may lead to difficulty with balance or trouble reading. They may also have problems judging distance and determining color or contrast, causing issues with driving.

What’s a typical age-related change?

Vision changes related to cataracts.

6. New problems with words in speaking or writing

People living with Alzheimer’s may have trouble following or joining a conversation. They may stop in the middle of a conversation and have no idea how to continue or they may repeat themselves. They may struggle with vocabulary, have trouble naming a familiar object or use the wrong name (e.g., calling a “watch” a “hand-clock”).

What’s a typical age-related change?

Sometimes having trouble finding the right word.

7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps

A person living with Alzheimer’s disease may put things in unusual places. They may lose things and be unable to go back over their steps to find them again. He or she may accuse others of stealing, especially as the disease progresses.

What’s a typical age-related change?

Misplacing things from time to time and retracing steps to find them.

8. Decreased or poor judgment

Individuals may experience changes in judgment or decision-making. For example, they may use poor judgment when dealing with money or pay less attention to grooming or keeping themselves clean.

What’s a typical age-related change?

Making a bad decision or mistake once in a while, like neglecting to change the oil in the car.

9. Withdrawal from work or social activities

A person living with Alzheimer’s disease may experience changes in the ability to hold or follow a conversation. As a result, he or she may withdraw from hobbies, social activities or other engagements. They may have trouble keeping up with a favorite team or activity.

What’s a typical age-related change?

Sometimes feeling uninterested in family or social obligations.

10. Changes in mood and personality

Individuals living with Alzheimer’s may experience mood and personality changes. They can become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious. They may be easily upset at home, with friends or when out of their comfort zone.

What’s a typical age-related change?

Developing very specific ways of doing things and becoming irritable when a routine is disrupted.

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Upcoming Walk to End Alzheimer's events
Upcoming Walk to End Alzheimer's events(alz.org)