What you think about aging impacts how well you’re going to age and how long you’re going to live.
– Melissa Batchelor, PhD, RN, FNP, FGSA, FAAN
Alzheimer’s disease is a syndrome that impacts a person’s ability to think, problem-solve, and function every day. It can influence a person’s memory, language, behavior, decision-making, visual and spatial skills, and ability to pay attention.
It happens slowly, over time, so often it may take family and friends – and even the person experiencing the disease – years to recognize these problems. In fact, dementia isn’t usually diagnosed until these problems are to the point that they interfere with the person’s ability to work, take care of their affairs, and manage their household.
Tune in to this episode of This Is Getting Old: Moving Towards an Age-Friendly World to learn about five symptoms of Alzheimer’s. This information could help you or a loved one identify the early warning symptoms and get earlier treatment.
Key points covered in this episode:
✔️ #1: Difficulty Understanding Spatial Relationships
If your loved one has difficulty understanding how to get from place to place, it could be a symptom of dementia. This can manifest in several ways, such as getting lost in familiar places, being unable to follow directions, or misjudging distances.
If you notice your loved one having difficulty figuring out how things fit together, understanding maps, wandering or getting lost, or changes in depth perception – trips, slips, falls, or a car accident, it could be an early symptom of a memory problem.
✔️ #2: Aphasia—Difficulties with Language Use
Aphasia—not to be confused with dysphagia (trouble swallowing)—is difficulty with understanding or using words. It can make it hard to read, write, or say what you want to. Aphasia may also make it hard to follow or carry on a conversation.
If you notice your loved one having trouble following conversations, finding the right word, substituting made-up words; writing that is hard to understand; or slurred speech, it could be an early symptom of dementia.
✔️ #3: Trouble Paying Attention
Staying focused becomes more difficult; as repeating questions; losing or misplacing things; errors in managing finances. The person may lose their train of thought when talking to you or have trouble following a conversation.
✔️ # 4: Difficulty Managing Time and Effort
The trouble with time management is another common symptom of dementia. This can manifest as forgetting what day it is, losing track of time, or inability to follow a schedule. In more severe cases, people with dementia may have difficulty planning and carrying out tasks that require multiple steps.
This can manifest as forgetting to take medications, having trouble cooking meals, having difficulty driving, taking longer to complete normal daily activities, and having trouble organizing themselves to get out of the house.
✔️ # 5: Amnesia and Agnosia—Memory Loss and Trouble Recognizing Familiar Objects or People
One of the classic symptoms of dementia is memory loss. This can manifest as forgetting recent events, conversations, or appointments. In more severe cases, people with dementia may forget who their loved ones are.
Memory loss is often accompanied by agnosia, and difficulty recognizing familiar objects or people. This can manifest as the inability to identify everyday household items, not knowing how to use ordinary things, or not recognizing close friends or family members.
Watch the NOSH: Nurses Optimizing Supportive Handfeeding video to learn more about how to manage mealtimes for persons with Alzheimer’s disease. You can use the three different hand hand-feeding techniques with other activities of daily living.
Knowing that Alzheimer’s Disease is Not A Normal Part of Aging Could Help You Live Longer.
Aging doesn’t have to equate to decay and decline.
Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of aging. You should know that as a young person because what you think about aging impacts how well you age and how long you live.
Learn all you can about what is NORMAL with aging, not what you may think is expected or believe the negative stereotypes accompanying aging in American culture. The negative stereotype of aging is called ageism, and it can decrease your life expectancy by almost 8 years. In fact, most older adults in the US are still vibrant and engaged in life. Strive to be that type of older adult – I know I am.
If you have questions, or comments or need help, please feel free to drop a one-minute audio or video clip and email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will get back to you by recording an answer to your question.
More Resources About Memory And Alzheimer’s Disease …
This Is Getting Old has several other episodes about memory and Alzheimer’s. You can check them out below:
- EP: 65 – What are the Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease? Part I: Symptoms of Early- and Late-Stage Alzheimer’s Disease
- EP: 66 – What are the Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease? Part II: Symptoms of Late- and End-Stage Alzheimer’s Disease
- EP: 64 – Alzheimer’s Disease and Living Alone: Four Signs Someone May Not Be Safe at Home Alone
- EP: 63 – Alzheimer’s Disease and Driving: Five Signs That It’s Time to Take the Keys
- EP 38: Ten Tips for Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease
I earned my Bachelor of Science in Nursing (‘96) and Master of Science in Nursing (‘00) as a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) from the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) School of Nursing (SON). I truly enjoy working with the complex medical needs of older adults. I worked full-time for five years as FNP in geriatric primary care across many long-term care settings (skilled nursing homes, assisted living, home and office visits) then transitioned into academic nursing in 2005, joining the faculty at UNCW SON as a lecturer.
I obtained my PhD in Nursing and a post-Master’s Certificate in Nursing Education from the Medical University of South Carolina College of Nursing (2011) ) and then joined the faculty at Duke University School of Nursing as an Assistant Professor. My family moved to northern Virginia in 2015 and led to me joining the faculty at George Washington University (GW) School of Nursing in 2018 as a (tenured) Associate Professor where I am also the Director of the GW Center for Aging, Health and Humanities.
Find out more about her work HERE.
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