Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurological disease caused by the formation of plaques containing beta amyloid in the brain.
Many times the signs of Alzheimer’s disease are mistakenly attributed to “old age”.
For as long as I can remember my Mom had an obsession with the mail. Every single day for decades she would wait for the mail carrier and collect the mail. It used to drive my Dad nuts! After all, mail = bills! We used to joke about it! Suddenly one day she didn’t care about the mail anymore. The same with the household bills. Someone who had kept an impeccable notebook of every bill and payment was no longer worried about the bills. Now some of this could have been chalked up to “old age” or even depression or whatever excuse we may make when we’re unfamiliar with the less common signs of Alzheimer’s.
The sign that I noticed going back some seven plus years was my Mom, a once very chatty and very friendly woman was shutting down socially. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to talk to people. The love of having a conversation with everyone she meets has never left her. She still loves to talk to people. She didn’t know what to talk about. Her world was shrinking and her thoughts were too. This was a huge red flag to me as it couldn’t be explained away. Instead she would talk about the same thing over and over again: my pit bull, Luka. She would tell people, “we have a pit bull and he is a GOOD DOG”. To this day she talks about Luka only now she doesn’t remember his name. Most times this has nothing to do with the ongoing present conversation. This is common in Alzheimer’s. Later on, it’s said that Alzheimer’s completely steals the ability to talk. I remember mentioning the inability to hold a conversation to family members. It was alarming to me. Some of the thoughts were perhaps her impaired hearing was making it difficult. No. My Mom was suffering from Alzheimer’s and I knew something was wrong. Unless you’re with the person who has Alzheimer’s or dementia often, it’s not easily recognizable at first.
Later down the road some of the obvious signs were:
Forgetting how to turn the coffee pot on. The same coffee pot that was used for years. My Mom a coffee connoisseur, would now sit on the couch and wait for me to wake up instead of turning the coffee on herself. She doesn’t remember how.
Simple decision making becomes difficult and indecisive.
Misplacing things (and panicking not only because they can’t remember where, but not knowing how to go about looking for the misplaced item).
Forgetting what day, month, year, or season it is. Needing a calendar!
Hygiene: all of a sudden someone “forgets to shower or they think they just did or simply doesn’t want to”.
Recognizing the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s may enable the patient to seek treatment sooner.
Caregivers, take care of yourself first. This disease…not the person….will wear you down like no other. Treasure the time you have with your loved one, know when you need a break, don’t feel guilty about that break, and don’t worry so much about the small stuff.