Alzheimer’s Association News:
ALBUQUERQUE — It isn’t surprising that the time when family members are most likely to recognize the first signs of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia in a loved one comes during the holiday season.
This year, family members and friends may not have seen one another for months or longer due to pandemic-related distancing. When they do gather, the signs of memory loss or behavioral change may become obvious.
The Alzheimer’s Association’s free and confidential 24/7 Helpline (800.272.3900) sees its highest volume of calls at the end of the year. Changes in memory or behavior that seem gradual to those in daily contact can appear as abrupt declines in cognition to out-of-town visitors.
The Alzheimer’s Association has developed a helpful checklist of 10 Signs to aid in the early detection of Alzheimer’s.
“Early detection is so important,” says Tim Sheahan (Executive Director, Alzheimer’s Association, NM Chapter). “Without it, the ones we love may wait too long to make necessary lifestyle changes that are important to ensure that all medical care options are explored. These options range from medications to research. Other considerations include personal safety as well as quality of care, and to make necessary financial and estate planning adjustments.”
Here is a brief overview of the 10 Signs:
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life. A typical age-related memory change is occasionally forgetting names or appointments but remembering them later. A common sign of Alzheimer’s disease, especially in the early stages, is forgetting recently learned information. The increasing need to rely on memory aids (reminder notes, electronic devices) or family members for things that one previously handled on their own is a sign.
- Challenges in planning or solving problems. Making occasional errors, such as checkbook balancing, is not uncommon. If a person experiences changes in the ability to follow a plan or work with numbers, or has difficulty concentrating and completing a task, that may be a concern.
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks. People with Alzheimer’s often find it hard to complete daily tasks. They may have trouble driving to a familiar location, managing a budget, or remembering the rules of a familiar game.
- Confusion with time or place. Losing track of dates, seasons and the passage of time is another indication. Sometimes people with Alzheimer’s can forget where they are or how they got there.
- Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships. For some individuals, vision problems can be a sign of Alzheimer’s. They may have difficulty reading, judging distance and determining color or contrast, which may cause problems with driving.
- New problems with words in speaking or writing. People with Alzheimer’s may have trouble following or joining a conversation. They may struggle with vocabulary, have problems finding the right word or call things by the wrong name (such as calling a “watch” a “hand clock”).
- Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps. Putting things in unusual places and being unable to find them. Sometimes, they may accuse others of stealing – with more frequency over time.
- Decreased or poor judgment. People with Alzheimer’s may use poor judgment when dealing with money, giving large amounts to telemarketers. They may also pay less attention to grooming and personal cleanliness.
- Withdrawal from work or social activities. Some individuals may avoid being social because of changes they’re experiencing, removing themselves from work projects, hobbies and sports.
- Changes in mood and personality. Increased incidences of confusion, suspicion, depression, fear or anxiety can be a sign. Individuals can become more easily upset at home, work, with friends or in places where they are out of their comfort zone.
If you or someone you care about is experiencing any of the 10 warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease, don’t ignore them. Schedule an appointment with your doctor.
For more information, contact the Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 Helpline at 800.272.3900 (with translation services offered in more than 200 languages and dialects) or go to www.alz.org. The Helpline is staffed by trained professionals and offered at no charge.
Today, over 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease. It is the 6th leading cause of death in the USA, killing more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.
Currently, there is no prevention or cure for Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s takes a devastating toll – not just on those with the disease, but on entire families.
In our own state, 43,000 New Mexicans over age 65 are living with Alzheimer’s disease and there are 85,000 unpaid dementia caregivers, many of whom are family members, contributing 157 million hours of care valued at $2.5 billion.
As the pandemic continues, the Alzheimer’s Association, New Mexico Chapter is offering many free resources electronically. Visit their website for the latest in free NM Chapter programs and webinars, accessible from the comfort and safety of your own home: www.alz.org/newmexico.
The Alzheimer’s Association is here for you. If you need help, call them. Their 24/7 Helpline is available any time, day or night for support or information at 1.(800).272.3900.
They have five branch offices in the state: Albuquerque (Main Office), Santa Fe (Northeastern New Mexico), Farmington (Northwestern New Mexico), Roswell (Southeastern New Mexico) and Las Cruces (Southwestern New Mexico). Though their physical locations remain closed due to health concerns, all regional staff may be contacted by calling 1.(800).272.3900.
*Source for all statistics: The 2021 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report at www.alz.org/facts.
About the Alzheimer’s Association®
Our mission: The Alzheimer’s Association leads the way to end Alzheimer’s and all other dementia — by accelerating global research, driving risk reduction and early detection, and maximizing quality care and support. Our vision: A world without Alzheimer’s and all other dementia. Visit www.alz.org/newmexico or call 800.272.3900.