10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia

As our loved ones age, how do you know if they are showing normal aging changes or if they are showing early signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s? The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s. In 2020, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, roughly 5.8 million people were living with Alzheimer’s disease. Warning signs for Dementia vary, but changes to behavior, increasing confusion, and loss of memory are common signs. Noticing these signs early may help you and your loved one prepare for the possibility of dementia.

10 warning signs of dementia

Every dementia patient experiences different symptoms with various severities, but there are some early warning signs you can find. These are 10 signs to look out for in order to determine if a loved one should seek a comprehensive medical workup and cognitive testing for dementia.

10 Warning Signs and Symptoms of Dementia

1.) Forgetfulness and Short-Term Memory Loss

Memory loss is the most common symptom of most types of dementia. Alzheimer’s affects short-term memory first which means a person can forget information they recently learned. However, just because someone can’t remember where they put their keys or switch up names it does not mean they have Alzheimer’s. We all forget parts of a conversation from time to time, but an early symptom of dementia can result in someone forgetting entire conversations that just happened. Dementia patients may also forget important dates and events and frequently ask for the same information repeatedly. Caregivers may have to give reminders more frequently whether it's leaving notes or calling to remind them of daily tasks.

2.) Lack of Concentration and Increased Confusion

Another common symptom of dementia is getting confused about times and places and difficulty concentrating. Both can make daily activities take much longer than they used to. Dementia patients can forget where they are, how they got somewhere, and can easily get lost navigating familiar places. As dementia progresses, patients may have trouble differentiating between past, present, future events. They can lose track of seasons and general passage of time which causes them to either show up to appointments or events at the wrong time or not show up at all.

3.) Losing things

Dementia patients could start to put things in more and more unusual places. We all can misplace our car keys or house keys from time to time but finding “lost” keys in the refrigerator could be a sign of dementia. Patients could lose things and then not be able to retrace their steps to find their missing things. However harmless this may seem; this can escalate into theft accusations when they can’t find their personal belongings that they have unknowingly misplaced. Patients can become paranoid and subsequently put their things in even more unusual spots to ward off the suspected thief. Suspicion and delusions may occur in middle-to-late stage Alzheimer’s.

4.) Difficulty Doing Familiar Tasks

Dementia can also affect one’s capability to do normal daily tasks. Patients could have difficulty with coordination and remembering how to complete multi-step processes like driving, cooking, or playing a familiar game. They may start to rely more on their loved ones to do things for them. Caregivers should maximize the patient’s independence and allow them to try and figure it out but should remain cautious. Dementia can also affect depth perception, distance perception, and color perception. Caregivers may notice increased clumsiness, accidents, falls, and uncharacteristic mishaps.

5.) Language and Speech Problems

Alzheimer patients will typically have trouble recalling the right words while speaking or while writing. Some patients can use stand-in words like “thingy,” “thingamajig,” “doodad,” or “what-cha-ma-call-it” and can make up their words or terms for actions. For example, someone with dementia might call a fridge a “cold space.” Because of these confusions or impaired speech abilities, they may also stop talking or writing abruptly.

6.) Problem with Simple Math

Math may not come easy to everyone, but people in early stage dementia may have difficulty completing basic math problems. They can find it difficult to work with numbers in everyday life such as budgeting, calculating tips, or even adding and subtracting. Caregivers should remain patient when helping dementia patients with this. Patients may feel embarrassed so it’s also critical caregivers remain non judgemental, offering help or corrections as suggestions.

7.) Poor Judgement

Depending on the patient, changes in decision-making, through process, and judgement could be a sign of dementia. If a person has made risky decisions all through their life, dementia may not be the cause of their changes in decision-making. However, if a logical person who usually carefully weighs all the options and makes informed decisions suddenly begins showing poor or reckless judgement, dementia could be the cause of that. For example, if they start recklessly spending, inappropriately dressing for the weather, or falling for obvious scams (Nigerian prince) those could be a sign of dementia.

8.) Personality Changes and Mood Swings

Personality changes and mood swings could be a symptom of dementia. Patients can become fearful, suspicious, paranoid, depressed, or anxious. Someone who is usually confident may become more closed off and shy. Patients could easily become more upset when they’re frustrated especially when they are put outside of their comfort zone. Caregivers can reduce the effects by creating a calm environment and avoiding or limiting  environmental triggers such as light glare or background noises.

9.) Changes in Grooming and Personal Hygiene

Changes in grooming and personal hygiene such as not changing clothes, skipping showers, and not brushing their teeth are common signs of dementia. In addition,  neglecting basic upkeep of their home such as allowing clutter to accumulate and not cleaning at all are common signs of dementia. Caregivers may have to help patients with grooming, maintaining personal hygiene, and cleaning. However in cases where patients may refuse help, it is best to remain patient and explain to patients how you can help.

10.) Withdrawing from Friends and Family

Increased withdrawal from social events that one normally enjoys attending could be a sign of dementia. Patients may avoid social activities to prevent drawing attention to their other symptoms such as memory lapses or difficulty communicating. Patients who are aware of their signs or symptoms of dementia may be less confident in themselves which leads them to avoid interacting with their loved ones. If loved ones or caregivers notice this, reassurance and making patients feel comfortable in an environment could help.

What to do if you notice these signs?

If you recognize any of these signs and think any of your loved ones may have a form of dementia such as Alzhmeir’s, you should make a doctor’s appointment promptly. An early diagnosis is crucial as it can check for curable conditions that can mimic symptoms of dementia, devise care and treatment strategies, and make legal and financial plans for the future. Should you notice any of these signs, elder law planning may be something you need.

If you and your loved one need estate planning, please contact the Law Office of Inna Fershteyn at (718) 333-2395 for legal assistance and enquiries.

How to Prepare a Loved One for the Possibility of Dementia?

Everything in life isn’t guaranteed and a life, where the best for you and your loved ones is not ensured, is scary. Having a plan for when those unexpected times arise in your life is the best way to ensure you and your loved ones are taken care of. Those approaching their elder years should be one of the first to ensure these plans are in place. Events such as an accident, stroke, heart attack, or something as serious as dementia can be extremely troublesome without the best plan in place. Not only should you consider making plans for your own well-being but encourage your loved ones to do so as well. This will ensure that a designated individual will be able to step in when times like this may occur in your life. 

How to Prepare a Loved One for the Possibility of Dementia?

Discussing Legal, Financial, and Health Care Planning With Loved Ones

Though having such a difficult conversation with the people you love may be uncomfortable, the end goal is for you and your family to ensure everyone is taken care of, no matter what obstacles life throws at you. If you wait until your loved one is incapacitated or needs a caregiver it will be extremely hard, legally and emotionally, to be able to care for them when they need you the most. If this occurs you would need to endure the lengthy and complex process of guardianship in order to be able to control a loved one’s medical care and finances. Why put you and your family through this process when you can make a plan beforehand. 

Timing Is Extremely Important 

Getting your Elder Care planning done in advance is crucial, as in order to be able to sign all the legal documents in the process, one must be physically and mentally able to. In instances such as Dementia, early diagnosis can still hinder an individual’s ability to make decisions. In some cases, a senior may still be able to sign legal documents but this all depends on the progression of the disease and circumstances differ. This actively demonstrates why it is important to plan earlier rather than later. Though it can be difficult to bring up these matters with a loved one, you should try to make it clear that you intend to protect them and ensure that all their assets and life are put in the best scenario possible. 

Crucial Documents Needed for Elder Care Planning 

  1. Last Will and Testament: A last will and testament is the first step in any Elder Care planning and indicates your wishes when you pass. This document indicates what is done with your assets and ensures your interests are met. We never know when we may pass and this document makes sure not only your interests are met but your loved ones are taken care of when this happens. 
  2. Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care: This is a document that will allow an individual to designate a person to make any medical decisions for them if they become incapacitated or unable to. Some decisions include choosing health care providers, nursing care, treatment, and end-of-life care. This document allows the individual to obtain medical records on your behalf as well. This is ideal for anyone as health can change, especially as you continue to get older, and this document will make sure you are taken care of if things don’t go as planned. Those with Dementia are not guaranteed a specific time frame for how fast the disease will progress so having a Health Care Power of Attorney will give them and their loved ones peace of mind when their loved one can no longer make decisions for themselves. 
  3. Durable Power of Attorney for Finances: This is a document similar to the Power of Attorney for Health Care, and allows you to designate an individual to make financial decisions for you when you become unable to do so for yourself. Some decisions that can be made on your behalf with this document include managing investments, selling property, taxes, and paying bills. This document is needed, as not only will your estate and assets be protected, but your interests will also be met if you ever become incapacitated. Why let a disease like Dementia or a medical condition stop your family from making sure your assets are taken care of when you can plan ahead. 
  4. Living Will: A living will is a healthcare directive that is drafted in advance to indicate an individual’s wish for end-of-life care or a serious medical crisis. This will be a clear indication of what you want to be done in regards to treatment if you are unable to and if the situation is life-ending. This document contains the instructions for the medical Power of Attorney and is important in the Elder Care planning process as leaving decisions like this to your loved ones will cause an immense amount of pain and regret. Your loved ones will not be left wondering what you would have wanted, but instead, know exactly what you want. 

Hiring an Elder Care Attorney 

Elder Care planning is hard on families and may not be the desired conversation, but it’s definitely a crucial step to ensuring your loved ones and you are taken care of at all times. Sitting down and creating a plan for what will happen in times of illness or losses is the start of your Elder Care planning. An Elder Care attorney can help make this process easier and ensure all your interests are met in a professional and legally binding manner. An attorney will inform you of all your options, and ensure all documents are legally binding and accurate. Discussing Elder Care options is hard enough for you and your family that’s why hiring an Elder Care attorney will allow you the peace of mind that your plans are in place in times of hardship. An attorney will help with the drafting of your Last will and testament, Power of Attorneys, and Living will, so you are ensured the best care. 

For further information on how to start your Elder Care planning please contact the Law Office of Inna Fershteyn at 718-333-2395 to obtain aid in the drafting of legal documents and help with any of your Elder Care needs.