The warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease we most often hear about are forgetfulness, confusion, and disorientation. However, as our loved ones age it is crucial we become educated on the early indicators of Alzheimer’s—many of which manifest in physical symptoms. Physical symptoms sometimes appear before any mental symptoms begin to show. It is possible that one or more of these physical changes will be the first signs of the onset of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
6 Physical Indicators of Alzheimer’s
1. Trouble Completing Familiar Tasks
People suffering from Alzheimer’s disease will out of the blue begin to find routine tasks difficult. If you notice dad, mom, grandpa or grandma begin to have problems completing simple, everyday tasks like operating kitchen appliances, using the phone, feeding the cat or throwing out the trash, it may be time to contact a physician to schedule a test.
2. Repeating the Same Actions
A common habit of people with Alzheimer’s disease is to repeat the same task over again, forgetting they have just done it. In fact, they may go on to repeat it multiple times, each time forgetting they’ve completed it already. Watch for signs that your elderly family member is washing the same dish over and over, making a second cup of tea or rewashing the sheets after just doing laundry an hour ago.
3. Decline in Motor Skills
When seniors start to lose their fine motor skills, simple things such as writing legibly or buttoning a shirt become difficult. Pay attention to their stride as they walk; if you notice them taking shorter steps and shifting toward one side it’s imperative you follow up by contacting a doctor.
4. Getting Lost
This manifests itself primarily in two ways: Losing their way in familiar places or continually wandering off. The Alzheimer’s Association reports that 6 in 10 people with dementia develop the habit of uncontrollable wandering. Keep an eye for instances of getting lost on the way to appointments, missing appointments or getting confused in places they go often, such as a favorite restaurant or their local market.
5. Trouble Sleeping
Alzheimer’s disease can cause patients to become sluggish and listless. When a senior who once was friendly, social and lively loses interest in old hobbies and passions take note. He or she may become uncharacteristically lethargic and apathetic, choosing to stare at the TV all day, nodding in and out of daytime naps. Their sleeping patterns can change drastically, sleeping too much, having trouble falling asleep or extended bouts of insomnia.
6. Neglecting Self-Care and Personal Hygiene
Either forgetfulness or severe apathy can lead aging adults with Alzheimer’s to disregard their appearance and hygiene. If a senior wears dirty clothing, appears disheveled, or stops doing basic personal care, such as brushing their hair or teeth, they need to see a doctor to get checked out.
Taken individually, a physical warning sign could point to Alzheimer’s or another mental illness, or could be unrelated to any mental disorder. Taken as a group, when multiple red flags are raised, it is likely they are symptoms of an underlying illness and should be taken seriously. Knowing the signs is only half the battle, you must first be around the seniors in your life in order to monitor their health and tell when something’s amiss. Stay in touch with regular calls and visits. When elderly family are not local, send regular care packages to stay connected between visits. If some of the signs ring a bell, don’t panic. Calmly schedule an appointment to see a qualified doctor and seek a diagnosis for your senior. The earlier an illness is identified the more effectively it can be treated.