When most people think of Alzheimer’s disease, they think of cognitive symptoms — poor memory, difficulty focusing, etc. But, there are also a lot of physical symptoms that can accompany Alzheimer’s disease.
Sometimes, you’ll even notice these physical changes before you notice changes in your loved one’s mental state.
It’s important to know what to be on the lookout for so you can get them the help they need as soon as possible.
Read on to learn about seven of the most common physical symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
1. Difficulty Performing Everday Tasks
Often, one of the first physical warning signs of Alzheimer’s that an individual will exhibit is difficulty performing mundane, everyday tasks.
Is your parent or loved one suddenly having trouble performing tasks they’ve performed thousands of times before, such as using the remote, making coffee, operating the microwave, etc.?
If so, you may want to consider arranging a memory test with their doctor to find out whether or not they’re in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
2. Repetitive Behaviors
Have you noticed your parent or loved one performing behaviors over and over again? Do they seem to forget that they’ve already taken care of a particular task?
People who are in the early stages of Alzheimer’s may repeat behaviors like checking that the door is locked, preparing a meal after they’ve already eaten, or washing dishes that have already been cleaned.
3. Increased Daytime Napping
It’s not uncommon for seniors to take naps during the day. But, if your parent or loved one is napping more frequently than usual (or taking longer naps than usual), this could be cause for concern.
As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, the damage caused to the brain can hinder an individual’s drive and determination. This, in turn, can cause them to feel low energy and even depressed. Thus, they start napping more frequently and skipping out on activities they used to enjoy.
Even if your parent isn’t napping regularly, be on the lookout for signs that they’ve started to feel depressed. For example, do they sit and stare at the TV all day when they used to be up and active?
4. Decreased Fine Motor Skills
A loss of fine motor skills is often an early symptom of Alzheimer’s disease.
If someone is developing Alzheimer’s, they may start to have difficulty accomplishing small, fine motor tasks: buttoning a shirt, tying their shoes, threading a needle, or even walking. In fact, a change in gait is considered one of the early hallmarks of Alzheimer’s.
People with Alzheimer’s disease often experience fine motor difficulties because, as their brain deteriorates, they lose their “muscle memory.”
The term muscle memory refers to the things we do automatically without even thinking about it.
Insomnia is another common challenge with which people who have Alzheimer’s disease tend to struggle.
People with Alzheimer’s disease often have trouble sleeping through the night. This might be because they nap more often during the day and throw off their circadian rhythms.
When their circadian rhythm is off, they may start to experience what’s known as Sundowner’s Syndrome.
In addition to insomnia, Sundowner’s Syndrome is characterized by other symptoms, including:
- Pacing or wandering
- Irritability and/or aggression
- Difficulty following directions
Some changes in sleep habits are a normal part of the aging process for many people. But, if the changes are severe or seem to come out of nowhere, they could be an early physical symptom of Alzheimer’s disease.
6. Poor Grooming or Hygiene Habits
Has your parent or loved one suddenly stopped shaving or combing their hair?
If they used to be fastidious about their personal hygiene and grooming and are suddenly neglecting it, this could be a warning sign of Alzheimer’s disease.
Sometimes, grooming problems stem from apathy or depression. Other times, they occur because the person forgets or thinks they’ve already taken care of them.
In either case, it’s important to seek help if you notice your parent or loved one suddenly neglecting their personal hygiene and grooming.
7. Weight Loss or Weight Gain
Unexplained changes in weight can also be a sign of Alzheimer’s disease.
Your parent may lose weight because they forget to eat altogether. Or, they may gain weight because they’ve forgotten that they’ve already eaten.
People with Alzheimer’s disease may also refuse to eat or insist on only eating particular foods.
If you’ve noticed that your parent or loved one’s eating habits have changed, or that they have recently gained or lost a significant amount of weight, be on the lookout for other potential Alzheimer’s warning signs.
How to Improve Physical Health in People with Alzheimer’s
Have you noticed any of these physical symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease in your parent or loved one?
It’s easy to feel helpless when you start noticing these symptoms. Remember, though, that there’s a lot you can do to help your them enjoy a high quality of life for as long as possible.
Some steps you can take to improve their physical health and minimize physical symptoms include:
Encourage Physical Activity
Go for walks with them or help them do basic stretches to maintain their strength and balance.
Work with a Physical or Occupational Therapist
Physical and occupational therapists can help your parent or loved one maintain their fine motor skills and continue to perform basic tasks independently. They can also come to your parent’s home to check for safety hazards.
Encourage Proper Nutrition
It can be difficult to get people with Alzheimer’s disease to eat healthfully. But, do your best to encourage them to eat nutrient-dense foods (fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, high-quality meat, etc.). Try making smoothies, soups, or protein shakes to help them get lots of nutrients in easily.
Is Your Loved One Experiencing Physical Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease?
Now that you know about some of the most common physical symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, do you think your parent or loved one is in need of some extra help?
In the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, most people can continue living on their own with limited assistance. But, as the disease progresses, they typically require additional care, sometimes in an assisted living facility.
If you’re considering assisted living for a parent or loved one and live in the Largo or Bellair, Florida areas, contact us at Seasons Memory Care today.
We’ll get back to you within 24 hours with more information about our facility and services.