Alzheimer's can be a scary disease. Many of its symptoms are well known: Memory loss, confusion, mood swings. But, there are also other symptoms which aren't as well known and which you may not be seeing in your loved ones.
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What Uncommon Symptoms Should You Look For?
These uncommon symptoms can help you determine whether the memory loss is caused by Alzheimer's or something else, such as thyroid problems. Here is what to watch out for:
Impaired or Faulty Judgment
Faulty memory can lead to faulty judgment. This might be going outside without a coat...and seeming not to understand why you are cold. Spending in unusual ways. Falling for scams if they have always been able to avoid them before is another sign (some people are always vulnerable). This is about a decline in the ability to make good decisions.
This is often missed or mistaken for more common age-related vision problems, such as cataracts. People with Alzheimer's can develop difficulties with reading, judging distances, and determining color or contrast. They might also mistake their own reflection for another individual. Some might find it hard to find the food on their plate or an object on the table. Some individuals have a reduced ability to detect motion or reduced peripheral vision.
These issues aren't in the brain but rather are related to thinning of the retina and the optical nerve. Research is being done on imaging devices that might allow an eye doctor to diagnose Alzheimer's at a very early stage.
Reduced Motor Skills
This can also be mistaken for other conditions, such as Parkinson's. But Alzheimer's can cause weakness, trembling hands, and loss of sensation. This can result in difficulty using utensils, buttoning clothes, tying shoelaces, etc.
This can contribute to overall difficulties dressing.
People with Alzheimer’s may act in ways that are completely out of character. This might include saying things they would never have said before, shoplifting, flirting with people other than their spouse, etc.
This generally only happens in mid to late stage Alzheimer's, but it can be quite worrying.
Difficulty with Vocabulary
Everyone misplaces a word occasionally. But in the early stages of Alzheimer's, it can become harder to keep track of words. Familiar words might become hard to call up, conversations a struggle, etc. People may also repeat themselves or call things by the wrong name. It's common for sufferers to describe things rather than name them, sometimes including everyday objects.
Again, everyone loses a word sometimes, but new difficulties with vocabulary that remain persistent can be a sign of Alzheimer's.
Reduced Energy and Drive
Many patients in the first stages of Alzheimer's exhibit reduced energy and a lack of interest in activities previously enjoyed. This can also indicate depression, but depression is often comorbid with Alzheimer's. This can also be caused by medications, stress, and thyroid issues, so it's important to look at the entire range of symptoms before suspecting Alzheimer's.
Alzheimer's seems to create issues with difficulty sleeping and increased daytime naps. While some sleep problems are common amongst older adults, people with dementia experience worse issues.
They may wake up more often and stay awake longer, and may try to get the attention of caregivers or otherwise disrupt other people's sleep. It's common for the sleep-wake cycle to start to reverse, with more wakefulness at night and more sleepiness during the day.
This also sometimes causes agitation during late afternoon or early evening, which is called "sundowning" and is a common reason why people decide to put their loved ones in memory care.
Most people think of Alzheimer's as "losing your memory," but it can have other symptoms as well, and some of these are lesser known and can be mistaken for other problems.
If you suspect a loved one has Alzheimer's, then it's important to try and get a diagnosis, as early use of medication slows the progression of the disease and planning can be done while they are still coherent. For any questions or concerns, feel free to contact us today.