03 Dec Dealing with a Diagnosis: Physical Symptoms to ExpectThis is the second installment in our ‘Dealing with a Diagnosis‘ series. This series aims to open the discussion on Alzheimer’s disease, reduce the stigma associated with the disease, and discuss the capabilities associated with the disease, not the limitations. Our hope is that with a more candid conversation surrounding Alzheimer’s disease, we can encourage people to seek treatment and support earlier. Special thanks to Marija Padjen of the Alzheimer Society of Toronto for her assistance with this article.
OK, so this blog title isn’t quite accurate – we can’t really sum up what you can expect when you or a loved one is dealing with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. There are so many factors involved, both physical and emotional, that every situation is different. There are, however, some common physical symptoms that a person with Alzheimer’s is likely exhibiting. Someone who has this disease may experience a few of these symptoms or all of them.
Most of the time people think that memory loss is the number one sign of Alzheimer’s disease; however, there is a range of symptoms that someone might exhibit, and you may notice symptoms other than memory loss first.
Impaired Judgment People with the disease could be showing signs of impaired judgment; for instance, someone may wear sandals outside in the winter.
Disoriented to time and space You may notice that this person gets lost heading back to the home they have lived in for 30 years.
Language skills You may also notice that the person is mixing up words.
Personality Changes You may notice that the person’s mood changes quickly for no apparent reason.
Loss of initiative A person who has Alzheimer’s may not be interested in activities that he or she used to engage in regularly, such as exercise.
Difficulty with abstract thinking He or she may begin to find tasks like balancing a cheque book and managing finances hard, when he or she had no trouble doing this before.
Difficulty performing familiar tasks A person with Alzheimer’s may start to have trouble doing tasks that they used to do regularly, such as putting together a big meal for family.
Memory Loss And, of course, you may also notice that the person is experiencing memory loss. People with memory loss as a result of Alzheimer’s disease will forget things to the pointthat it affects their day to day function.
However, you may not expect the other forms of memory loss that can be attributed to Alzheimer’s. A person may begin to put things in odd places, like leaving the keys in the fridge. He or she may also think that things have been stolen instead of merely misplaced.
Consult a doctor if you notice symptoms
Understand that these symptoms could be a result of another type of dementia or illness, and therefore it is critical that you consult a doctor for a diagnosis if you or someone you know is showing some of these signs. Early diagnosis can help the person with Alzheimer’s disease get treatment and live a better life.
Awareness of the disease can vary
People who have Alzheimer’s may or may not be aware that they have the disease. Generally, this is not a result of denial; instead, it is a result of the disease progressing and affecting the brain. People’s understanding and awareness of their disease may change quickly, and can even change through the course of a day. As the Alzheimer’s progresses, all individuals lose the ability to vocalize their awareness of the disease.
Get educated and be proactive!
If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, you should get educated about the disease and find out what you can expect. It’s scary to learn more about the physical symptoms of Alzheimer’s, but becoming educated will help you to plan for the future, re-evaluate your priorities and accomplish things you want to do, and be an active participant in making decisions regarding treatment, caregiver team, and overall health. It may help you come to terms with the disease, and to educate others and fight the stigma. Ask your doctor as many questions as possible, and take part in the support groups that are available.
For more information about support and education, consult the Alzheimer Society of Toronto