September is World Alzheimer’s Month, with World Alzheimer’s Day being observed every year on September 21st. It is an international campaign to “raise awareness and challenge the stigma that persists around Alzheimer’s disease and all types of dementia.”
As such an important topic that affects millions of families a year, it is crucial that you are informed and aware of any warning signs.
While it can be overwhelming, identifying symptoms and differentiate dementia from Alzheimer’s is key to understanding a loved one and finding them the help they need.
How exactly do you know what is happening to a loved one?
For me, what raised a red flag was when my grandmother kept asking what my name was. It had started with her not remembering where she left her wallet and keys and slowly but surely started turning into forgetting her home address and having difficulties identifying loved ones. At first, we thought it was simply because she was getting older, but we quickly realized there was more to it.
To better understand what is happening to a loved one, you must understand the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, “dementia describes a group of symptoms associated with a decline in memory, reasoning or other thinking skills.”
On the other hand, “Alzheimer’s is a degenerative brain disease caused by complex brain changes following cell damage” that “lead to dementia symptoms that gradually worsen over time.”
Therefore, dementia is a general term that describes problems with memory, thinking, and social abilities, while Alzheimer’s is a disease in which dementia is one of the symptoms. Keep in mind that there are various types of dementia.
According to the National Institute on Aging, memory problems are one of the early signs of Alzheimer’s. Things such as forgetting important dates and asking the same questions multiple times are signs of memory impairment. While forgetfulness is considered a normal part of aging, Alzheimer’s is not due to aging.
Normal aging involves losing things from time to time, forgetting to pay a monthly bill, and not knowing which word to use while communicating. However, Alzheimer’s involves losing something and not being able to find them, making poor decisions, and losing track of the date or time of year.
So, before you start attributing your loved one’s behavior to their age, truly pay attention to their behavior and track any patterns. Besides, age should not be the only thing you pay attention to, as there are also many cases of early-onset Alzheimer’s, which affects people under the age of 65, as stated by Hopkins Medicine.
If dementia or Alzheimer’s is affecting a loved one, we understand that this can be frustrating, stressful, and saddening. You can feel overwhelmed as you watch someone you care about battle the symptoms. While this unfortunately affects the lives of many, there are support groups you can reach out to where you and your loved one can find guidance and encouragement.