As our parents age, we need to look after them the way they once looked after us. This includes recognizing signs of illnesses that aren’t especially easy to spot.
Some of the early signs of Alzheimer’s disease, like mood swings and forgetfulness are pretty easy to write off as mom or dad having a bad day. But the truth is, these things should make you watch them a little closer; especially if the disease runs in your family.
Because Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, patients with it worsen over time. However, an early diagnosis and treatment can help keep them stable.
If you’ve noticed some odd behaviors, you might already be asking yourself if there truly is something going on with your parent. Maybe you’ve even noticed that the topic agitates or causes them to shut you out.
We laid out some of the early signs of Alzheimer’s you should be on the lookout for. Continue reading and we’ll also show you how to deal.
Talking to Your Parent
Conversations with your parents about their health as they age are some of the scariest conversations for adult children to start. We never want to make our parents feel like they’re incapable or watch them become defensive.
Because of all the sensitivity around these topics, it can feel nearly impossible to have these talks. But they are necessary to have. First of all, this conversation will lead to your parent receiving a real diagnosis and treatment.
It also gives you an opportunity to establish a plan. If your parent is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, they will eventually lose their ability to take care of themselves.
Speaking with them early on allows them to share their wishes and concerns. Give them the opportunity to tell you where they’d like to live, how they want their finances handled, what to do with their prized possessions and many other things.
This open dialogue will make your parent feel safe which will become even more important down the road. Don’t wait until there’s a serious crisis or accident. Those circumstances will limit everyone’s choices and add to the stress.
10 Early Signs of Alzheimer’s
In progressive diseases like Alzheimer’s, a patient’s brain structure and brain chemistry become more severely damaged over time. This is the reason you see people with Alzheimer’s slowly lose who they once were.
It’s important to note that while the early signs listed in this article are the most common symptoms patients will display, not all cases are the same. Meaning those with Alzheimer’s can possibly skip some of these symptoms or display some others early on.
You should also be mindful that some of these symptoms can present themselves in the later stages of the disease.
1. They’re Having Trouble Completing Typical Tasks and Chores
People with Alzheimer’s often experience difficulty completing tasks they didn’t have a problem with before. If your parent is usually pretty tidy and you realize they’ve stopped keeping a clean house, for example, this can be a sign that something is wrong.
The same can be said for a parent who has forgotten some of the steps to a recipe they’d cooked you your entire life, or the rules to a game they already know how to play.
2. Forgetting the Day, Month, Time or Location They’re In
If your parent has gotten lost in a familiar place like their favorite grocery store or their neighborhood, they could have a serious problem. They might call you in a panic over being lost or not knowing what day it is.
In some cases, your parent can even think they’re in a completely different decade. Bringing up old events like your little league soccer game as if it was happening today is a definite red flag.
3. Decreased Judgment
None of us make the right decisions all the time. Lapses in judgment happen to the best of us.
But we’re talking about those times where your parent does something irresponsible that seems to be coming from left field.
For instance, your mother might wear a summer dress on a cold winter’s day. Or your dad can give more money than he can afford to a telemarketer.
4. Losing Things
Has your parent started storing things in strange places? Have you found shoes in the fridge or car keys in the fish tank?
A person with normal cognitive function will misplace things, but they can usually retrace their steps to find them. If your parent is exhibiting more extreme versions of this otherwise normal behavior, it may end up being Alzheimer’s disease.
Patient’s with Alzheimer’s tend to blame others for stealing items they misplaced too.
5. Drastic Moodswings
Drastic mood swings without logical reasoning is an early sign of dementia that shouldn’t be ignored. Your parent can be mellow one minute and cry hysterically the next if they have this disease.
This can also come into play if they’ve suddenly become suspicious or moody around something they enjoyed spending time with before. Sometimes these mood swings stem from the person feeling uncomfortable, maybe being too hot or cold.
Changes in mood also including being calmer or less emotional than they typically would be.
6. Avoiding Social Situations
So, your parent used to be a social butterfly who enjoyed family gatherings and coffee dates with friends, but they’ve recently become withdrawn. This can happen because they’ve become uncomfortable being around people because they are frightened by their own strange behavior.
While becoming withdrawn, you parent can sleep more often than usual, develop passive personality traits, or take several naps throughout the day.
7. Problems with Written and Verbal Communication
People with dementia will forget common words. They may even replace them with words that don’t fit into their sentences, making their speech difficult to understand.
Furthermore, they can have a hard time reading; especially out loud. With dementia, your parent can fall into the reading level of a child during their early years of elementary school.
Most people classify Alzheimer’s disease with constant forgetfulness. It’s one of the most common symptoms.
Whether your parent is forgetting new information or thing they’ve already known, you should take the action seriously. Absent-minded behavior will also include repeatedly asking the same question.
9. Changes in Vision
Although it isn’t the most popular symptom, it does occur in some patients. Alzheimer’s disease can cause problems with processing colors, space, and reading.
This can weaken their ability to drive safely. If your parent had a recent fender bender where they ran into a nonmoving object like a tree or sign that they say “came out of nowhere” you should have their cognitive skills evaluated.
10. Trouble Thinking Critically
Has your parent recently began struggling to pay their bills without changes in income or commitments? Are invoices piling up and they don’t understand why?
People with dementia have trouble solving problems such as these. Sometimes the problems become so overwhelming that they just put them off instead of facing them.
An expense tracker can help you help your parent stay on top of their finances.
Talking to Your Parent’s Doctor
In the beginning, most patients with Alzheimer’s are uncooperative and display great levels of anger and denial. But if you are truly concerned that your parent has the disease, you should do everything you can to make sure they are correctly diagnosed and helped. This involves talking with their doctor.
HIPAA is set in place to protect patient privacy and information. Because of this, your parent’s doctor isn’t allowed to share things with you pertaining to their health. However, you are still fully able to share your concerns, even if your parent is against it.
Using the information you’ve learned about the early signs of Alzheimer’s, write a letter to their physician. In the letter, you should include your observations with timeframes.
Perhaps your parent called you three times in a single day asking what time your child’s birthday party will be. Maybe you watched them pour salt instead of sugar into a batch of lemonade.
These events should be noted and shared with the doctor. And although the doctor won’t be allowed to tell you specifics about their appointments with your parent, your letter will make them alert.
Your parent might even be more accepting of the conversation about Alzheimer’s or screening for the disease coming from their doctor instead of their child. Think about it, that role reversal can’t be fun for them.
Although there has yet to be a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, there is support available to those patients who are living with it. The treatments range from medication, memory care, and lifestyle changes that can include assisted living.
It’s important for the patient to have a loved one who understands all these options as their disease worsens. For example, a lot of people don’t know the difference between assisted living and memory care (compare here.)
Follow our blog for tips about budgeting, health, and family life that can still be implemented if your parent is showing early signs of Alzheimer’s.