It is normal to forget the occasional detail - the name of someone that you rarely see, the exact place you left the car keys, or trying to find your sunglasses-- only to realize they are sitting on your head!
This mild memory loss is a normal part of aging and happens in varying degrees to most of us. However, while the brain naturally deteriorates with age, Alzheimer’s is associated with the rapid onset of brain degeneration.
Severe memory loss and cognitive impairment associated with Alzheimer’s should not be ignored or trivialized.
The following are common symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease:
Memory and learning impairment – People with Alzheimer’s start out with slight memory loss and often have difficulty learning new tasks or information. As their memory loss progresses, they will begin to forget more important details and old facts and will often repeat conversations, having forgotten what they’ve just said. Sometimes they will fill in the gaps by making up stories (confabulation). They may begin to forget what they were doing mid-task or forget where they are, causing them to frequently feel lost in familiar surroundings. This can be extremely traumatic.
Difficulties with language – Language is often affected as the individual struggles to find the right word, or express thoughts in words. It may be difficult to follow conversations, and eventually writing and reading are also affected.
Motor difficulties – A person with Alzheimer’s may struggle with motor activities such as coordination.
Difficulty recognizing common objects or familiar items or people – This is a common symptom and is very distressing for both the diagnosed and their loved ones.
Disturbance in executive functioning – This is the part of our minds that allows us to follow actions through in an orderly and logical way. People with Alzheimer’s will often struggle to plan and organize even simple tasks. Day-to-day functioning becomes extremely difficult and eventually impossible, as even the simple sequence of events necessary for a bath becomes confusing. Cooking, driving, cleaning, and dressing become tasks that they can no longer carry out. Judgment becomes impaired, and when faced with a problem like an overflowing pot, a person with Alzheimer’s can find themselves without the skills to correct it.
Difficulty with abstract thinking – People with Alzheimer’s struggle to perform abstract tasks and often can no longer do even simple math problems or work with numbers.
Changes in personality – It is fairly common to notice personality changes in those with Alzheimer’s. They may experience mood swings, irritability, and act in ways that are uncharacteristic of their normal behavior.