One of the most common myths surrounding Alzheimer’s disease today is the belief that it is a normal part of aging. But Alzheimer’s is more than memory loss — it’s a progressive and fatal disease that kills nerve cells and tissue in the brain, affecting an individual’s ability to remember, think, plan and, ultimately, function. “Dementia” is an umbrella term used to describe changes in a person’s memory, thinking and behavior. There are many possible causes of dementia, but 60 to 80 percent of all dementia cases are caused by Alzheimer’s disease.
The Alzheimer’s Association has developed a list of 10 warning signs to help people understand the difference between normal aging and common signs of possible dementia. These signs are:
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life, such as forgetting recently learned information.
- Challenges in planning or solving problems, e.g., trouble keeping track of monthly bills.
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks, such as driving to a familiar location or organizing a grocery list.
- Confusion with time or place. A person living with dementia may sometimes forget where they are and how they got there.
- Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships. The person may have problems judging distance and determining color or contrast, causing issues with driving.
- New problems with words in speaking or writing; forgetting names or calling everyday objects by the wrong name.
- Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps. Most people misplace things now and then, but someone living with Alzheimer’s may put their keys in unusual places and, even after finding them, have no idea how they got there.
- Decreased or poor judgment, such as when dealing with money.
- Withdrawal from work or social activities, even hobbies that used to bring joy.
- Changes in mood and personality. A person may become easily upset when out of their comfort zone.
This list is intended to be a tool to help identify unusual changes in a person’s memory, thinking or behavior — it’s important to note that this list does not constitutes a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or dementia. If you have questions or need more information, contact 1-800-272-3900 or visit www.alz.org.
ABOUT THE ALZHEIMER’S ASSOCIATION GREATER RICHMOND CHAPTER
The Alzheimer’s Association Greater Richmond Chapter was established in 1981. Its mission is to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support for all affected; and to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and other dementias through the promotion of brain health. In Virginia, 140,000 individuals live with Alzheimer’s, including 26,000 in the 24 counties and 5 cities served by the Greater Richmond Chapter. The chapter serves persons with any dementia disease, not just individuals with Alzheimer’s, and one hundred percent of our programs and services are offered free of charge. Last year, the Greater Richmond Chapter assisted more than 6,000 neighbors and answered over 2,100 Helpline calls from individuals seeking information and resources, wanting tips for caregiving, or those just needing someone to listen.