The earlier stages of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease aren’t always easy to tell apart from a bad mood or a “senior moment.” Although people can be forgetful at any age, it’s important to know the difference between mixing up small details and signs of something more serious. With World Alzheimer’s Month marked each September, our memory care team at the Lodge at Grand Junction Senior Living put together some information we think you’ll find helpful if you’re looking to learn more about memory loss conditions.
Know the Numbers: The Western Slope is Affected by Alzheimer’s
The number of people living with Alzheimer’s or dementia in the U.S. is on the rise—in Colorado, it’s estimated that 73,000 people currently have Alzheimer’s, making it the 6th leading cause of death in the state. This is especially felt throughout the Western Slope, where many counties have a larger population of seniors affected by a memory loss condition.
7 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s or Dementia
For many people, the main symptom associated with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease is memory loss—but there are actually many signs that a loved one may be in the early stages of dementia. Here are common signs of dementia and how to know if you should be concerned.
1. Trouble Remembering New Information
One of the most common and noticeable signs in the early stages of Alzheimer’s is memory loss that makes life difficult. When a loved one is unable to remember recently learned information or having to rely on notes and reminders more often, it could be a sign that something isn’t right. When forgetfulness starts to disrupt day-to-day life, it’s worth looking into possible causes.
2. Challenges with Simple Planning
Because dementia and Alzheimer’s are cognitive conditions, they tend to affect a wide range of cognitive skills, including some detail-oriented tasks like following a recipe or tracking finances. This may be harder to spot if you’re not closely involved in your loved one’s routine, but can become apparent over time.
3. Trouble Interpreting Images
As the condition progresses, some people struggle with interpreting visual items and spatial relationships. This can make driving particularly difficult, as many issues are related to determining depth of field, distance or contrast. These vision problems can also make it harder to read or see images clearly, which is easy to confuse with common symptoms of age-related vision changes or conditions like cataracts.
4. Problems Communicating or Using Words
Joining a conversation starts to get harder as dementia or Alzheimer’s sets in. Someone with memory loss may stop participating in conversation, or suddenly stop halfway through their sentence, without finding the words to continue. They can also have trouble with vocabulary and start finding different ways to refer to things. Someone without memory loss might still forget words here and there but can remember them later on and still generally follow in conversations.
5. Losing Things and Not Being Able to Retrace Steps
One of the first things we do when we lose something is retrace our steps, so when a loved one is unable to remember what they were doing or when they last had the item they’re looking for, take note. This can be frustrating for them, as it might be something that happens quite often—and that’s a reason for concern.
6. Easily Upset Mood, Especially in New Places
This is not to be confused with a general aversion to change, which most people have. With dementia or similar cognitive conditions, sudden mood swings may be triggered by a new place, but can also happen at home, work or with friends. One indicator that a loved one’s anxiety, confusion or irritability could be related to memory loss and not something else is when those feelings can’t be resolved or redirected.
7. Forgetting Basic Care Needs and Routines
Self-care can involve a lot of tasks, but this doesn’t mean they take up much energy. A few ways self-care can be affected by memory loss include forgetting to bathe, wearing unwashed clothing, missing meals or having trouble managing medications. These are often the result of other symptoms of dementia, but can still indicate something isn’t right.
Connect to Resources Close to Home on the Western Slope
There are resources throughout Mesa County and Western Colorado that may be able to offer support, including your local Area Agency on Aging and Alzheimer’s Association chapter. One of the larger events coming up this fall is the 2019 Walk to End Alzheimer’s, happening here in downtown Grand Junction. This annual event brings out thousands of attendees and can be a great place to find fellow caregivers who understand the experience of living with someone with memory loss. As one of the newest assisted living and memory care communities in Grand Valley, our team at The Lodge at Grand Junction is honored to host the photo booth at this year’s walk!
At The Lodge at Grand Junction Senior Living, we’re committed to helping our residents live well and age well. This means that from the moment you get in touch with our team, we want to ensure you not only feel comfortable but also feel supported. If you have questions about the early symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, or concerns related to memory loss, one of our memory care specialists can help. Contact us online today or call 970-470-8428 to speak with one of our memory care experts.