November was National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month – a cause that is held near and dear to The Pavilion Senior Living as well as other senior living providers throughout the industry. We help families and their loved ones walk down the path of an Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis on a daily basis.
The average person diagnosed with Alzheimer’s is in their late seventies whose onset of the disease has been so slow progressing that it goes unnoticed until the later stages of the disease. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States and 5.3 million people over the age of 65 are currently living with the disease. These are scary numbers – and while researchers are currently working fervently to find a cure, currently, there is not one.
However, with the proper diagnosis in an early stage of the disease the progressive illness can be drastically slowed and a person can continue living a happy and fulfilled life – with many meaningful and joyful moments happening long after initial diagnosis.
While it may be common to think of the disease symptoms associated with memory impairment – let’s look at some less known signs that may point to an early stage of Alzheimer’s Disease.
A study, that followed 125 older adults over an eight-month period, revealed that there was a correlation between frequent falling and the person developing Alzheimer’s later in life. Frequent falling is often caused by issues with spatial relationships or another type of cognitive delay that prevents a person from catching themselves prior to the fall.
Alzheimer’s and dementia often alter the way a person is able to move their eyes. This symptom is called ‘reduced gaze’ and may result in a person staring. While the person exhibiting symptoms may not be aware that they are doing this, it is often clear to their loved ones around them.
Eating Non-Edible Items
As the disease progresses, you may notice your family member eating food that is not safe for human consumption. An example may be eating a flower in a vase on a restaurant table, while they know they are supposed to eat at this location – they do not understand what the flower is doing there. Another example would be eating food that is past its expiration date or has been left out for too long. Because it’s not uncommon for people exhibiting dementia-like symptoms to become distracted, they may leave food out for hours to the point it spoils. When they return to eat, the food is no longer safe.
We have all found ourselves in a situation where we forget a word temporarily, only to remember it later on in the conversation or even hours later. However, people experiencing early signs of Alzheimer’s may lose knowledge about certain objects. For example, they may no longer remember what a coffee maker does or forget what object their car keys belong too.
Struggling With Social Cues
Being unable to recognize how others feel or how to act in social interactions is a common sign of Alzheimer’s. Someone experiencing symptoms may no longer be able to feel empathy or understand embarrassment of others. On the other side, they also may no longer experience feelings of embarrassment themselves.
While the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s cannot be accomplished with five symptoms alone, we recommend contacting your doctor if you believe a loved one is experiencing one or more of these signs. If you have questions or would like recommendations on Alzheimer’s and dementia resources, please contact The Pavilion Senior Living for more information.