Not Just a Regular Part of Aging: Recognizing the Signs of Alzheimer’s and Taking a Proactive Approach
Alzheimer’s Disease can come on quietly and seem sudden. It is a form of Dementia that begins years and maybe even decades before the first recognizable symptoms. Many mistake the warning signs as a regular part of aging. Because of this, many do not seek early treatment. Taking a proactive approach has been proven to improve the quality of life of those affected by Alzheimer’s and their care givers.
How Common is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Many older adults prefer to avoid thinking about Alzheimer’s all together since it is such a life altering disease. Yet, it is a common ailment affecting over 6 million elders in the United States alone. 1 in 9 elders will develop Alzheimer’s in their lifetime. Native Americans are at higher risk with 1 in 3 native elders developing this disease. With these numbers also on the rise, it is more important than ever to know the warning signs and take a proactive approach.
The Warning Signs: Not a Just a Regular Part of Aging
We all have those moments of misplacing our keys or forgetting why we’ve entered a room. However, when memory loss or confusion starts affecting quality of life, it is time to meet with your provider. Here are the 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s from the CDC’s Healthy Brain Initiative:
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life: forgetting events, repeating yourself or frequently relying on more aids to help you remember (like sticky notes or reminders).
- Challenges in planning or solving problems: having trouble paying bills or cooking recipes you have used for years.
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work, or at leisure: having problems with cooking, driving places, using a cell phone, or shopping.
- Confusion with time or place: having trouble understanding an event that is happening later or losing track of dates.
- Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relations: having more difficulty with balance or judging distance, tripping over things at home, or spilling or dropping things more often.
- New problems with words in speaking or writing: having trouble following or joining a conversation or struggling to find a word you are looking for (saying “that thing on your wrist that tells time” instead of “watch”).
- Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps: placing car keys in the washer or dryer or not being able to retrace steps to find something.
- Decreased or poor judgment: being a victim of a scam, not managing money well, paying less attention to hygiene, or having trouble taking care of a pet.
- Withdrawal from work or social activities: not wanting to go to church or other activities as you usually do, not being able to follow football games or keep up with what’s happening.
- Changes in mood and personality: getting easily upset in common situations or being fearful or suspicious.
Taking a Proactive Approach: Where to Start
Alzheimer’s Disease may seem scary, but science and medicine are always working to help improve the quality of life for those diagnosed and their caretakers (Read our latest Patient Newsletter for more information on some recent advancements). Seeing any of the symptoms listed above is the first step in learning something has changed. Proactive care is being open to the idea that these symptoms may be caused by Alzheimer’s. Start by taking notes of any changes in behavior, personality, habits, cleanliness of home, and anything else that seems different. Even the smallest detail can help a provider narrow down a cause.
What’s Next: Talking With a Provider
Always be honest with your provider. It can be hard to talk about but the more information a provider has, the more information they can give for treatment and care. Bringing a family member, caregiver, or close friend to the appointment is another way of sharing information and anything else that they may have noticed. This would be the time to share any notes.
Next, the provider may do some tests. The first might be a neurological exam where they test your recall, reflexes, speech, and more. Other tests might be a blood test, a CT/MRI, or tests for other diseases such as Parkinson’s. The results of these tests will help give answers and a path forward.
What can be done now:
Waiting for answers is never a good feeling. Even if the next step is taking a while, there are things still in your control. The earlier you or your loved one catch this disease, the more options there are for treatment and prevention. An easy switch that the whole family can join in is trying out different diets shown to increase brain health, such as the Mediterranean Diet and the MIND Diet. Both use recipes found around the Mediterranean Sea. They encourage meats, fruits and vegetables, olive oil, and even a glass of wine to enjoy them with. Diets like these might help reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and how fast it can progress.
Trying new recipes is a great way to spend time with loved ones. Interacting with others has been shown to help maintain one’s self identity and improve mood. Take the time when eating together to share your stories, ask your questions, and spread the history of your family. It’s also never too late to make friends and join a community of people who know exactly what you may be going through. The Alzheimer’s Association has groups with regular meetings for those in the early stages and resources for caregivers looking for information and connection. This disease may feel like something you have to face alone but know that you are never truly without people who care.
The earlier you identify, the more options for treatment and prevention there are to improve your quality of life. Don’t wait, make an appointment with your provider today.
To schedule an appointment with Chapa-De, please contact our Auburn office at (530) 887-2800 or our Grass Valley office at (530) 477-8545.
Chapa-De Indian Health Auburn Grass Valley | Medical Clinic
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Chapa-De provides medical care, dental care, optometry, behavioral health, pharmacy services and much more.
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