At present there are about 550,000 people living with dementia in Canada. And with Canada's aging demographic the projections around dementia are equally staggering. By 2030, the number of people living with dementia in Canada is expected to reach 1 million – nearly doubling from current levels.
As stressful as this disease is for senior loved ones and their families that it impacts, catching the warning signs early, doing research and anticipating and preparing for major adjustments in daily living can help families be better prepared and cope more effectively when dementia strikes a loved one.
Here at Home Instead Senior Care (Burnaby and South Vancouver), we have recently come across quite a few prospective clients within our community who are unsure of whether a senior loved one has dementia or not. The reasons vary from pending doctor visits, delayed diagnosis to dismissing early warnings signs as senior moments.
Given our recent experience, we felt it may benefit many in our Burnaby and South Vancouver communities to do a brief information piece on the early warning signs of Alzheimer's.
According to the Alzheimer Society of Canada, following are 10 warning signs of Alzheimer's, compared with what are typical age-related changes:
1. Memory loss that affects Day-to-Day Function: a senior with Alzheimer's disease may forget simple things more often and not remember them later, e.g. an appointment or a friend's name
2. Difficulty performing Familiar Tasks: a senior with Alzheimer's disease may have frequent trouble with tasks they have been familiar with, such as preparing a meal.
3. Problems with Language: a senior with Alzheimer's disease may forget simple or substitute words, making her sentences difficult to understand and comprehend.
4. Disorientation of Time and Place: a senior with Alzheimer's disease can become lost in their own street now knowing how to get back home.
5. Poor or Decreased Judgment: a senior with Alzheimer's disease may present poor judgment such as not recognizing a medical problem (e.g. stitches for a deep cut) or wearing heavy clothing on a hot day.
6. Problems with Abstract Thinking: a senior with Alzheimer's disease may have extreme difficulty in situations that require abstract thinking. For e.g., not knowing what the numbers in a cheque book mean.
7. Misplacing Things: a senior with Alzheimer's disease may put things in inappropriate places, for e.g. an iron in the freezer or a wristwatch in the sugar bowl.
8. Changes in Mood and Behavior: a senior with Alzheimer's disease may exhibit varied mood swings even within short periods of time for e.g. from calm to tears to anger – and for no apparent reason.
9. Changes in Personality: a senior with Alzheimer's disease can become confused, suspicious and withdrawn. Some other personality changes such as fearfulness, apathy etc. may also occur.
10. Loss of Initiative: a senior with Alzheimer's disease may spiral down the path of getting very passive and withdrawing from simple or daily activities.