Alzheimer’s is, above all, an insidious disease. Its symptoms often begin so mildly and progress so slowly that it’s easy for friends and loved ones to deny them until one day there’s a ‘defining incident;’ an incident so bizarre that not even the spouse, child or other loved one can ignore it or explain it away.
Yet the disease typically starts with things of little or no significance. Not being able to come up with a common word. Mixing up someone’s name. Forgetting to turn off the stove. Things we all do from time to time. But for the person just entering the fringes of Alzheimer’s these things may begin to happen more and more often.
Years may pass between the earliest occasional confusion and the ‘defining incident.’ And during those years, the person may annoy or even anger friends and family members by being late, forgetting important appointments, being short-tempered, being unable to perform routine tasks, and exhibiting a whole variety of other troublesome behaviors.
But people noticing consistent signs of confusion and forgetfulness in a loved one should not wait for the ‘defining incident.’ One early action to take is to review the Alzheimer’s Association 10 Signs of Dementia and ask yourself whether your loved one is showing one or more of them:
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life
- Challenges in planning or solving problems
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work and at leisure
- Confusion with time or place
- Difficulty understanding visual images and spatial relationships
- New problems with words in speaking or writing
- Losing things and the inability to retrace steps
- Decreased or poor judgment
- Withdrawal from work or social activities
- Changes in mood and personality
The Alzheimer’s Association web site has additional information about each of these items and explains how they differ from things ‘normal people’ do from time to time.
It’s easy to ignore these signs or fail to connect the dots, but when a loved one is showing them it’s essential to dig down deep into your soul and find the emotional strength to get a medical evaluation. No one wants to be evaluated, or have a loved one evaluated, for Alzheimer’s disease, but sometimes it has to be done – and the sooner the better.
Would you like to share your own experiences with denial? How long were you in denial about your loved one’s condition? What happened that finally made you face the truth?