Alzheimer’s 10 Warning Signs

This year’s Alzheimer’s Awareness Month’s theme centres around the 10 warning signs of Dementia and the importance of an early diagnosis. The World Alzheimer Report 2021 has highlighted that 75% of people with dementia globally are undiagnosed, equating to 41 million people.

In Ireland 64,000 people are currently living with Dementia. The Alzheimer Society of Ireland reported that figure is expected to double to over 150,000 in 25 years, 2045. With 30 people diagnosed each day with dementia, 11,000 new cases a year, it is important to highlight the key warning signs and symptoms to allow for an early diagnosis.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of Dementia, linked to over half of reported cases. It’s a result of a build-up of protein in the brain (amyloid) that forms plagues surrounding the brain cells, impairing the functionality of the brain.  

Dementia Umbrella Description

An early diagnosis allows you and your circles of care to plan for the future, maximise your quality of life, access resources, support and information and develop a treatment plan. At present there is unfortunately no cure for Alzheimer’s and dementia however an early diagnosis can slow and, in some cases, stop the progression of the disease, allowing for an extended quality of life.

While there is no one size fits all when looking at the symptoms of a person presenting with dementia as they can be unique to that individual and the type of dementia, the following are the 10 most common warning signs.

  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty performing familiar tasks
  • Problems with language
  • Disorientation to time and place
  • Poor or decreased judgement
  • Problems keeping track of things
  • Misplacing things
  • Changes in mood and behaviour
  • Trouble with images and spatial relationships
  • Withdrawal from work or social activities
Alzheimer's and Dementia warning signs

1. Memory Loss

Lapses in our memory can be common, especially as we age. Memory loss becomes a cause for concern when a person is unable to remember people, conversations or things that may have happened recently.

A persistent decline in short-term memory can result in the inability to organise thoughts and language issues such as difficulty in finding the right word. Identifying family members, places and objects may also become more challenging.

2. Problems with Language

This decline can also lead to repetition of a story or questions numerous times without realising it. Many people with Alzheimer’s and dementia suffer from Aphasia, the inability to comprehend and formulate language, making conversations difficult to conduct or follow.

Short-term memory loss is the first symptom people associate with dementia however it is not always the first warning sing.

3. Difficulty in performing familiar tasks

Difficulty in performing familiar tasks is an indication a person may be suffering with Alzheimer’s and dementia. This can range from tasks which require planning and multiple steps such as cooking to basic tasks like bathing or dressing incorrectly, i.e., clothing on backwards or in the wrong order.

4. Disorientation with time and place

Disorientation with time and place are linked to a decline in memory. Keeping track of what date/month/season are key warning signs. Sometimes the person may forget where they are or how they got to a certain place, even if it is a familiar place to them.

5. Poor or decreased judgement

Major changes in judgement or decision making such as uncharacteristic behaviour in social situations, managing money poorly or trouble looking after themselves are subtle but important symptoms to note.

6. Problems keeping track of things

Keeping track of monthly bills, working with numbers, spending money frivolously and being uncharacteristically generous be early indicators of Alzheimer’s and dementia as these tasks require a lot of abstract thinking.

7. Misplacing things

Misplacing things is another common trait that many of us may have in our day-to-day life. A person presenting with Alzheimer’s and dementia however may misplace items in strange or unusual places and be unable to retrace their steps because of disorientation.  

8. Changes in mood and behaviour

Irritability and rapid mood swings are key changes in behaviour linked with Alzheimer’s and dementia. The person suffering can become confused as a result of other symptoms, causing them to become emotional, lash out and even depressed. It is important to remember that a person suffering still has emotions but a reduced capacity to communicate. They may be in pain or discomfort and unable to accurately express this.

9. Withdrawal from work or social activities

These behavioural changes may lead to a withdrawal from the usual social interaction or even work as they begin to experience some lapses in memory. Many behaviour changes will result in a more sedentary life, sitting in front of the TV for hours or sleeping more often.

10. Trouble with images and spatial relationships

Whilst many people will notice a change in vision as they age, people with dementia can develop issues with determining colour, seeing objects in three dimensions or problems judging distance. Spatial awareness can decrease leading to a lack or balance, spilling food or drinks more often and tripping over more.

If you are someone you are worried about is presenting any symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia, it is important to consult your GP for further advice and referral.

Alzheimer's Symptoms and warning signs

Palliative Care

Palliative care:

From Latin palliare meaning to cloak) is an area of healthcare that focuses on relieving and preventing the suffering of patients. Unlike hospice care, palliative medicine is appropriate for patients in all disease stages, including those undergoing treatment for curable illnesses and those living with chronic diseases, as well as patients who are nearing the end of life.

Palliative medicine utilizes a multidisciplinary approach to patient care, relying on input from physicians, pharmacists, nurses, chaplains, social workers, psychologists, and other allied health professionals in formulating a plan of care to relieve suffering in all areas of a patient’s life. This multidisciplinary approach allows the palliative care team to address physical, emotional, spiritual, and social concerns that arise with advanced illness.

Palliative care:

  • provides relief from pain, shortness of breath, nausea, and other distressing symptoms;
  • affirms life and regards dying as a normal process;
  • intends neither to hasten nor to postpone death;
  • integrates the psychological and spiritual aspects of patient care;
  • offers a support system to help patients live as actively as possible;
  • offers a support system to help the family cope;
  • uses a team approach to address the needs of patients and their families;
  • will enhance quality of life;
  • is applicable early in the course of illness, in conjunction with other therapies that are intended to prolong life, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

Palliative care and children

Palliative care for children is delivered differently from the palliative care services for adults. Many children requiring palliative care have life-limiting conditions, as opposed to advanced terminal conditions and children may survive for many years with these life-limiting conditions.

Where children need palliative care it is usually provided at home. In the home, the family is supported by their family doctor, public health nurse and the specialist palliative care team (where available). The medical and nursing care of children in hospitals is the responsibility of paediatric-trained medical and nursing staff, with support from the specialist palliative care service.

What does the Irish Association for Palliative Care do?

Established in 1993 as an all island body with the purpose of promoting palliative care nationally and internationally, the Irish Association for Palliative Care (IAPC) is a multi-disciplinary membership organisation.

The membership reflects the entire spectrum of all those who work in or have a professional interest in the provision of palliative care, i.e.,doctors, nurses, social workers, chaplains and pastoral carers, pharmacists, psychologists, physiotherapists, occupational therpaists, dieticians, as well as executive staff and academics and educationalists. Membership also includes clinicians and allied health professionals working in related areas such as geriatrics, oncology, psycho-oncology, paediatrics, and pain management.

As a sole membership organisation for those involved in the provision of palliative care, the IAPC is the primary collective and expert voice for palliative care in Ireland.

The core objectives of the IAPC are to:

  • strengthen the capacity of the palliative care sector through developing the professional capacity of individuals
  • promote the palliative care agenda through the Association’s collective and expert voice
  • drive patient-centred, equitable and accessible palliative care for all who need it through utilizing the Association’s expertise to influence and shape national policy.

For more information on IAPC please go to http://www.iapc.ie/index.php

Someone to lean on- Guardian Weekend 28.05.11

I have attached a link to an article which was published in the Guardian Weekend 28.05.11, it acknowledges that looking after the older person is a costly and complex challenge and that home visiting has been promoted as preferable and cheaper than residential care. But asks the question is 15 minutes per day enough. In the article Amelia Gentleman accompanies a number of carers on their rounds to experience what it is like for them and the people they look after on a daily basis.  Click on the link below for the full article.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/may/28/caring-for-elderly-in-own-homes/print

Caring For Carers Conference

Caring for Carers Ireland 20th Annual Respite Weekend & Conference takes place at the Royal Marine Hotel Dun Laoghaire 25th – 27th March 2011. Over 500 Family Carers from throughout Ireland, North and South attend the Conference each year.
Carers provide ongoing care and support to older people and people with disabilities within their homes. Myhomecare.ie is proud to support this conference and will be in attendance over the week. Looking forward to meeting all the Carers.