Alzheimer’s is a disease that affects approximately 5 million Americans. And, by the year 2050, it’s assumed this number will have increased to 16 million Americans.
With these statistics, Alzheimer’s has become the 6th leading cause of death in America.
We hear the word all the time, but what exactly is Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s disease is an irreparable and progressive brain disorder. The disease reduces memory and the ability to think and, eventually, the capacity to perform everyday tasks.
While many people think Alzheimer’s is only a mental disease, this isn’t the case. In fact, there are many physical signs of Alzheimer’s Disease as well.
Read on to discover the 7 little-known physical symptoms of Alzheimer’s:
1. Decreased Fine Moter Skills
Someone developing Alzheimer’s may experience difficulty in accomplishing day-to-day tasks. This is especially the case for fine motor skills that we often take for granted.
For example, this could be anything from tying one’s shoes to cutting vegetables or even handwriting.
What causes this sudden inability to perform these tasks?
Those suffering from Alzheimer’s often lose their memories or people and things. However, they can also lose their ability to remember how to perform basic functions.
Because these are such common tasks we often perform every day, our brain has stored these tasks in our muscle memory. And, so, these tasks that used to be performed automatically suddenly become more difficult and require more thought and concentration.
These skills can also be lost when the part of the brain that sends information to our muscles is damaged.
2. Getting Lost
Has your loved one has begun aimlessly wandering or suddenly forgetting where they are going? If so, this could be a sign of developing Alzheimer’s.
Why the initial plan to go for a walk or a drive may have had a purpose, the individual may suddenly forget the destination and become lost. From here, they begin to wander and may also forget their return address or the directions to get home.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, approximately 6 out of 10 people with Alzheimer’s will wander.
If your loved one returns home late from errands or seems delirious upon return, note whether these instances become a pattern. If so, be sure to discuss this with your family doctor.
When it comes to one’s sleeping schedule, Alzheimer’s often causes sudden changes in sleep patterns.
While these changes can vary from person to person, insomnia is a side-effect that many individuals experience. Those suffering may experience inabilities to sleep at night. On the other hand, they may find themselves sleeping much more than they used to during the day.
This is often because the day and night sleep schedule becomes out of whack and results in Sundowners Syndrome. This syndrome is a neurological phenomenon associated with confusion and restlessness. It often occurs in patients with Alzheimer’s.
While it is common for aging folk to experience changes in sleep, it is worth mentioning to a doctor any major changes in sleep patterns.
4. Sudden Displays of Poor Hygiene
One of the more common physical signs of Alzheimer’s comes in form of apathy.
You may notice an individual becomes mentally apathetic (less desire for things like socializing, events and family). However, it is common for the individual to also become physically apathetic.
What exactly does this mean?
Those suffering from Alzheimer’s may neglect to keep up with their usual patterns of hygiene and physical appearance. This is most significant in the case of individuals who were once very concerned with their outward appearance suddenly forgoing their usual routine.
If you notice your loved one who was formally tidy and well-kept suddenly appear disheveled or wearing repeat clothing, this could be a sign of Alzheimer’s.
5. A Difficulty with Everyday Tasks
A difficulty with everyday tasks comes in the form of simply forgetting how to perform basic functions. Or, in some instances, it may also be seen in mixing up routine duties.
These are tasks that could be performed with little conscious thought before and suddenly the individual realizes the task was done incorrectly.
To illustrate this point, let’s use the example of a man who, for the last twenty-five years has made a fresh pot of coffee each morning.
Before the Alzheimer’s, the man dutifully heats the kettle, grinds his coffee beans and places the beans in a french press each morning without thought. However, he begins to notice that recently he forgets his first step to heat the kettle and goes straight to grinding his coffee beans. And, so, when he pours the water into his coffee the coffee is cold.
If you find that your loved one is displaying symptoms such as this, be sure to visit a family doctor and schedule a memory test.
6. Displaying Repetitive Behaviour
People with Alzheimer’s often forget they have completed a task and that they are no longer required to fulfill certain duties.
This can result in performing the same duty again and again. For example, an individual may be cutting a pepper for dinner. Once the pepper is properly cut and placed out of sight, they may reach for another pepper and begin the process again.
This can also be forgetting basic things such as whether or not you properly closed the fridge. While the individual may have checked only a short time ago, the memory fades and they need to check again and again.
A lapse in memory can tend to occur more with age. However, it’s the instances in which the forgetfulness becomes a pattern that it becomes an area of concern.
You may also notice the individual begins preparing for events that no longer apply. This can be anything from preparing to go to work or anticipating company. This is because it was once standard to prepare for these duties and they forget these duties are no longer a part of their routine.
7. Reduced Bowel and Bladder Control
While a difficulty with bowels and bladder is more prone in later stages of Alzheimer’s, it can present itself at any stage.
Oftentimes the messages between the brain and the bladder/bowels do not function correctly. This can result in:
- Failing to react to the messages of having to utilize the toilet
- Forgetting where the bathroom is located
- Inability to communicate the need for a toilet
- Forgetting to remove clothing when on the toilet
Do you find that your loved one is experiencing issues or more toilet-related accidents than usual? If so, document these instances and be sure to visit your doctor.
Are You Noticing These Physical Symptoms of Alzheimer’s?
In determining whether someone you love may be suffering from this disease, it’s vital to consider the physical symptoms as well.
After all, Alzheimer’s is not always a uniform disease and may initially surface with physical symptoms before mental symptoms. If your loved one is displaying a number of these symptoms, it may be worth visiting your family doctor.
Remember, there are many facilities available that make living with this disease more bearable. Things like assisted living and memory care facilities offer an extremely beneficial environment for those suffering from Alzheimer’s.
Please don’t hesitate to contact us and learn more about our many programs available.