Infographic: Recognizing early signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease

Posted on in Education/Training

By Dorothy de Souza Guedes, VGM Education

During the holidays, you may interact with new customers and patients who are visiting or live seasonally in your area, and also friends and family you don’t see year round. These interactions can provide the opportunity to assess changes in cognitive and physical abilities related to Alzheimer’s disease that may go unnoticed in more regular interactions. Changes can happen gradually until significant decline is realized and the disease has significantly progressed.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia found in people older than 60, and risk of Alzheimer’s disease significantly increases as we age. Because baby boomers are expected to live longer than any previous generation, over the next few decades, there will be a drastic increase in the number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease.

Currently, there are an estimated 5.3 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease; the majority are 65 or older. By 2040, when baby boomers will be between the ages of 76 and 94, the number of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease will nearly double to 10.3 million.

As the disease progresses, people living with Alzheimer’s disease may require a health care setting or have a need for a 24/7 private in-home caregiver. But 70 percent live in the community and many live alone.

Signs and symptoms

A person may be fearful that admitting they need help will cost them their independence. In daily interactions with patients and customers, it’s helpful to understand the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease to offer assistance, including products and aids that can assist a person in safely and comfortably living in their home for as long as possible.

Mild cognitive impairment

Memory loss is the most common symptom of Alzheimer’s disease, and the warning signs can be gradual and subtle. Be alert for memory problems that go beyond what can be expected as part of the normal aging process:

  • inability to handle money or pay bills
  • wandering and getting lost
  • repeating questions
  • losing or misplacing things in unusual places

Decrease in ADLs

Difficulties in performing tasks that we don’t normally have to think about, our activities of daily living, such as bathing or eating, can be a sign of Alzheimer’s disease. They may take much longer to perform these tasks or avoid tasks altogether.

Language function decline

Struggling to find the right word or using the wrong word can be symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Listen for overuse of vague terms such as “thing” or “it.” If they can’t remember the answer to a direct question, they may give an answer that skirts the issue.

Behavioral and personality changes

A person may become more impulsive or experience rapid mood changes. He may become interested in get-rich-schemes that never interested him before, or may go on spending sprees. He may become paranoid or much more fearful in situations that previously did not bother them.

Movement difficulties

A person in the later stages of Alzheimer’s disease may experience difficulty in moving their arms and legs, which can cause difficulty in walking. They may experience an increase in falls that cannot be explained by other known issues.

What you should know

  • Educate yourself and your staff about Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia through VGMU Online Learning courses, including Overview of Alzheimer’s Disease, Overview of Dementia, and Basic Home Safety. If you are not currently using VGMU, call Megan Kraft at 888-786-6628 to discuss course options.
  • VGM Retail Services can help you expand your HME business by featuring products that make living with Alzheimer’s disease a bit easier for your customers. Our vendor partners offer bedroom and bathroom safety items as well as hygiene, dressing, comfort and many other daily living aids. Call us at 855-285-3300.
  • Accessible Home Improvement of America (AHIA) is a nationwide network of independently owned and operated, certified providers and contractors dedicated to providing accessible home modifications and related products and services. AHIA offers a full array of services developed to help providers currently involved in accessibility – and those who wish to expand the scope of their business to include accessibility.

November is National Alzheimer’s Disease and Awareness Month and Family Caregivers Month®. To learn more or to honor a caregiver, visit Alzheimer’s Association.