World Alzheimer’s Month was launched in September 2012. September was chosen to encompass the already existing World Alzheimer’s Day on September 21, enabling local, national, and international awareness programs to extend their reach. World Alzheimer’s Month is an initiative of Alzheimer’s Disease International. It is a time to raise awareness and funding for research.
According to www.alz.org, Alzheimer’s disease is a specific type of dementia that causes issues with memory, thinking, and behavior. Symptoms develop slowly and get worse with time, eventually interfering with everyday tasks. It is the most common form of dementia, accounting for up to 80% of all dementia cases. It is NOT a normal part of the aging process, though one of the biggest risk factors for it includes increasing age (in most cases, individuals are over 65 years of age when diagnosed). Alzheimer’s is more severe than “simple” dementia in that it gets progressively worse over a shorter amount of time. Dementia worsens more gradually over a period of many years, while those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease typically live only 8-10 years after diagnosis, depending on other health conditions.
There are typically 10 signs/symptoms specifically associated with Alzheimer’s (according to www.alz.org):
1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life: forgetting recently learned information, important dates and/or events, asking the same question over and over again, increasing need for memory aids/family for things they were once able to do without assistance
• Normal age-related change: forgetting names/appointments but remembering them later
2. Challenges in planning or problem solving: difficulty working with numbers and following budgets or familiar recipes, difficulty concentrating and taking much longer to perform routine tasks
• Normal age-related change: occasional errors in balancing a checkbook
3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, work, or leisure: issues driving to a familiar place, managing budgets at work, or remembering rules to a favorite game
• Normal age-related change: occasionally needing help programming a microwave or television
4. Confusion with time or place: losing track of dates, seasons, or passage of time; may have trouble understanding future-based appointments; they may forget where they are or how they got there
• Normal age-related change: confusion about the day of the week but later remembering
5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships: may have visual changes, difficulty reading, judging distance, determination of color or contrast; may cause issues with driving.
• Normal age-related change: vision change related to cataracts
6. New problems with speaking or writing words: may have issues starting or joining conversations, stop in the middle of conversations, repetitive conversation, struggles with vocabulary, have problems with finding the right word or calling things by the wrong name
• Normal age-related change: sometimes having trouble finding the right word
7. Misplacing things and losing ability to retrace steps: putting things in unusual places, losing things and not being able to go back over steps to find them, accusing others of stealing; may increase over time
• Normal age-related change: misplacing things from time to time but retaining ability to retrace steps to find them
8. Decreased or poor judgment: poor judgment with money, paying less and less attention to grooming and personal hygiene
• Normal age-related change: making bad decisions every now and then
9. Withdrawal from work or social activities: may start to remove self from work, hobbies, sports, or social activities; may have trouble following favorite sports teams or completing favorite hobbies such as knitting or reading a book; avoidance of social activities so that behavior changes aren’t as marked
• Normal age-related change: sometimes feeling weary with work, family, and social activities/obligations
10. Changes in mood or personality: becoming confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious; easily upset at home, work, with friends, and in unfamiliar circumstances
• Normal age-related change: development of specific ways of doing things and being irritable when routines are interrupted
If you think you or a loved one may be beginning to develop signs or symptoms of Alzheimer’s, see your primary care provider. There are specialists who can present various options for dealing with the effects of this debilitating disease.
Just like with the Autism walk in April and various Relay for Life events in May, September hosts walks for raising awareness of Alzheimer’s. Huntsville held their walk September 13, 2014. Decatur will host a similar event the first weekend of October. For more information, visit www.alz.org.
By: Rachel Clark RN BSN