As we recognize World Alzheimer's Month in September, it’s important to know the early warning signs to watch for and how you can support a loved one with Alzheimer’s.
Early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease
The most common early signs of Alzheimer’s disease include:
- Forgetfulness or memory loss that affects daily life.
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks, such as driving to a loved one’s house or turning on the stove.
- Becoming easily upset or experiencing changes in mood or personality.
- Losing track of time, seasons or dates.
- Withdrawing from social activities or having trouble following or holding a conversation.
- Difficulty concentrating, planning ahead or solving problems.
- Challenges with decision-making or using poor judgment, such as with finances.
- Misplacing or losing items.
- Changes in the ability to write or speak, such as struggling to remember certain words or names of objects.
- Problems with balance, reading, driving or judging distance.
- If you or a loved one has any of these symptoms, talk to a primary care provider. Early detection and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease can help improve quality of life and relieve certain symptoms.
How to support a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease
If your loved one has already been diagnosed with a form of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease, here are some ways you can support them:
- Help them stick to a routine. Routines offer comfort and stability, which can reduce frustration and stress.
- Consider their best time of day. Your loved one likely feels their best during certain times of day, such as when they’re well-rested. Try to do activities like bathing or visiting the doctor during these times.
- Ask them to help with simple tasks. If they’re able to, ask them to help with folding laundry, measuring ingredients for baking or cooking, setting the table, or sorting the mail.
- Give them options, but keep it simple. It can be hard to make decisions when a person has Alzheimer’s, so offer them a few simple options when deciding what they want to eat, wear or do.
- Be patient with them. It can be challenging for someone with Alzheimer’s disease to remember instructions or information. Do your best to focus on one activity at a time, avoid arguing with or criticizing them, give them breaks in between activities (such as doctor’s appointments or visits with loved ones), avoid correcting them every time they make a mistake or say something that doesn’t make sense, and don’t rush to complete their sentences when they can’t remember a word or phrase.
- Engage them in regular conversation. Even if they have difficulty communicating, it’s still important to include them.
- Streamline communication. Use their name, maintain eye contact, ask yes-or-no questions, talk to them respectfully (not as if they’re not there), hold their hand while you talk to them if they’re OK with it, and avoid using a “baby” voice when speaking with them.
- Encourage them to stick to a sleep schedule. Going to bed and waking up around the same time each day, limiting daytime naps and avoiding electronic devices an hour before bedtime can improve their sleep quality.
- Surround them with familiar favorites. Keep their favorite photos and items displayed around their home where they can easily see them. Play their favorite television shows or movies. Make their favorite meals.
- Avoid too much noise. Excess sound can overwhelm people with dementia. You can reduce noise by keeping the TV turned off when it’s not in use, avoiding or turning off violent or upsetting shows or movies, having smaller gatherings of people rather than large get-togethers, and using media sources that limit commercial interruptions as much as possible.
- Offer to help. Offer to help with their chores and errands, such as going to the grocery store or cleaning the home. Or consider getting extra assistance from an in-home caregiver.
In-home care for people with Alzheimer’s disease
If your family is ready to try in-home care, CareLinx caregivers are trained, pre-vetted, and have undergone a thorough background check to ensure that your loved one receives high-quality care personalized to their needs. Find a CareLinx caregiver near you.
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