There are currently 5 million people living with Alzheimer’s in America, of which 1 in 3 will die from the disease. According to a report by the Alzheimer’s Association, this number is expected to double to 10 million as baby boomers age and develop Alzheimer’s. Of those who reach 65 years old, 1 in 8 will get the disease and of those who reach 85 years old, 1 in 2 will get it. Since there is no way to prevent, cure or slow the progression of the disease, that means a majority of the 10 million baby boomers will either die with Alzheimer’s or from it. This makes it especially important for families to learn what the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s are.
Although every case of Alzheimer’s is different, researchers have identified common warning signs to look out for in parents and family members, including:
-Memory loss, especially of recent events, names, placements of objects, and other new information
-Confusion about time or place
-Struggling to complete familiar actions or habits, such as brushing your teeth, washing your hair, or getting dressed
-Difficulty finding the right words, completing sentences, or following directions and conversations
-Poor judgment in making decisions
-Changes in mood and personality, such as increased suspicion, rapid ad persistent mood swings, withdrawal, and disinterest in usual activities
-Difficulty with complex mental assignments, such as balancing a checkbook or completing work
You may have also heard of the 4 A’s of Alzheimer’s: amnesia, aphasia, apraxia, and agnosia. Each of the symptoms above is grouped within one of these A’s.
Amensia is the symptom you’re most likely to be familiar with. It’s defined as a loss of memory, or the inability to remember facts or events. We have two types of memories: short term and long term. Alzheimer’s disease damages short-term memory storage first. Of course, memory loss can be normal, but you’ll know if it’s more serious if it starts to hamper with your ability to function at work or at home.
Aphasia is the inability to communicate effectively. When someone loses the ability to speak or write, it’s known as expressive aphasia (also known as non-fluent aphasia). A person with Alzheimer’s may forget words he or she knows and because of this, have difficulty communicating. With receptive aphasia (also known as fluent aphasia or Wernicke’s aphasia), he or she may have difficulty understanding spoken or written words. That person may know how to read but can no longer understand what is being read. About one million Americans have some form of aphasia, according to the National Aphasia Association.
Apraxia is the inability to do pre-programmed motor tasks, or to perform activities of daily living such as brushing your teeth, washing your hair, or getting dressed. A person with apraxia may forget all motor skills learned during development. In this, sophisticated motor functions that require extensive learning, such as job-related skills, are the first to go. Instinctive functions like chewing, swallowing and walking are lost in the final stages of the disease.
Agnosia is the inability to correctly interpret signals from their five senses, including the loss of the ability to recognize objects, faces, voices, or places. Those with agnosia can still think, speak and interact with the world normally, for it usually affects only a single information pathway in the brain. For instance, people with visual agnosia won’t be able to name an object placed in front of them or describe its use. However, he or she can still reach for it, pick it up, and once holding the object, they’ll be able to use their tactile information pathway – the sense of touch – to identify its use.
So why is it important to diagnose Alzheimer’s early if the symptoms can’t be stopped or reversed? It allows family more time to plan for the future.
Loved ones with Alzheimer’s will want to have a say in care, transportation, living options, how their finances will be managed and legal options. With an early diagnosis, he or she will still have the cognitive ability to make these decisions themselves. Also, it gives those with Alzheimer’s the opportunity to participate in clinical drug trials to enhance research if they’d like to, and find doctors and care partners they like and trust.
In many cases of Alzheimer’s, family members often end up acting as the caregiver for their loved ones. In fact, it’s estimated that one in four family members act as a caregiver for each individual with Alzheimer’s. However, for the rest, they’ll need to find a care unit or nursing home for their loved one to live in.
Knapp & Roberts’ nursing home blog has great resources for families looking for tips in finding a safe nursing home for their loved one, as well as other information pertinent to a loved one’s new living situation, like defining what a care plan is and what to do when touring a facility. We understand how difficult and overwhelming this can be, but with the experience we have litigating nursing home abuse cases over the past 20 years, we hope to provide resources that can help you find the right home for your loved one and avoid elder abuse and neglect.
The personal injury attorneys in Phoenix, Arizona, at Knapp & Roberts have the compassion and trial lawyer skills to tell your story to a jury. We will get to know you and your family so that we can help the jury understand what has happened to you and your family and how it has changed your lives. Obtain the compensation necessary for the injuries and losses you have suffered.