- An estimated 5.4 million Americans of all ages had Alzheimer’s disease in 2015, including 200,000 individuals under the age of 65.
- One in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another dementia.
- Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the US (including all age groups).
- Only 45% of people with Alzheimer’s disease or their caregiver report being told of their diagnosis by their physician.
- In 2014, Americans provided nearly 18 billion hours of unpaid care to people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.
Can you recognize the 10 Warnings Signs of Dementia and understand what these signs really mean in terms of impact on decision making and safety?
- Memory Loss that Disrupts Daily Life: One of the most common signs of Alzheimer’s disease, especially in the early stages, is forgetting important dates or events; asking for the same information over and over and increasingly needing to rely on memory aids (e.g, reminder notes or electronic devices) or family members for things they used to handle on their own.
- Challenges in planning or solving problems. Some people may experience changes in their ability to develop and follow a plan or work with numbers. They may have trouble following a familiar recipe or keeping track of monthly bills
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure. People with Alzheimer’s disease often find it hard to complete daily tasks. Sometimes, people may have trouble driving to a familiar location, managing a budget at work or remembering the rules of a favorite game.
- Confusion with time or place. People with Alzheimer’s disease can lose track of dates, seasons, and the passage of time. They may have trouble understanding something if it is not happening immediately. Sometimes they may forget where they are and how they got there.
- Trouble understanding visual or spatial relations. For some people, having vision problems is a sign of Alzheimer’s disease. They may have difficulty reading, judging distance and determining color or contrast, which may cause problems with driving.
- New problems with words in speaking or writing. People with Alzheimer’s disease may have trouble following or joining a conversation. They may stop in the middle of a conversation and have no idea how to continue or they may repeat themselves. They may struggle with vocabulary, have problems finding the right word or call things by the wrong name.
- Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps. A person with Alzheimer’s disease may put things in unusual places. They may lose things and be unable to go back over their steps to find them. Sometimes, they may accuse others of stealing.
- Decreased or poor judgment. People with Alzheimer’s disease may experiences changes in judgment or decision making. For example, they may use poor judgment when dealing with money, falling victim to scams. They may pay less attention to grooming or keeping themselves clean.
- Withdrawal from work or social activities. A person with Alzheimer’s disease may start to remove themselves from hobbies, social activities, work project or sports.
- Changes in mood and personality. People with Alzheimer’s disease may become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious. They may become easily upset at home, work, with friends, or in places where they are out of their comfort zone.
As you can see, these early signs can make a big impact on the decisions that people make and their need for advanced planning. Because of these considerations AAGPA is partnering with PBI to provide a series of educational programs entitled WHAT EVERY ATTORNEY NEEDS TO KNOW ABOUT ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE. Considering the unique issues that are posed by a potential dementia diagnosis is important for planning professionals in order to best serve their clients. It is often important for attorneys to be able to recognize the warning signs of the disease, know how the disease impacts judgment and planning early on, and have the ability to refer families for more help. Providing support to individuals and families surrounding dementia recognition and planning can make a huge difference by protecting the client with dementia from scams and poor financial choices, by supporting families in having and documenting the desires of the person with dementia for future care, and by reducing the sudden need for caregivers to provide unpaid care that would increase the financial burden on the family.
Advanced legal planning is important in order to allow the person with dementia to communicate his or her wishes for future care, allowing them to receive the care they’d want and taking the responsibility off of loved ones when decisions are necessary. Advanced planning also allows the person with dementia to designate a chosen surrogate decision maker, as well as a backup, to reduce family squabbles and possible legal fees for Guardianship when the surrogate decision maker becomes necessary. Consulting the right professionals can make a world of difference for individuals and loved ones when facing Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia.
To learn more about Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, as well as services and supports available to those affected, visit www.alz.org/pa.
Amy Dukes, Senior Outreach and Education Manager with the Greater PA Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Assn.
Ms. Dukes earned her BA from Carlow University in Pittsburgh and has gone on to become a Certified Care Manager as well as to receive significant continuing education in Older Adult Protective Services. She has worked in Aging Services for the past 15 years as an Aging Care Manager, then as a trainer, then as the Director of Senior Services for non-profit organizations in Southwestern PA. Her commitment to training and education crosses all ages and skill levels, and she is dedicated to adjusting training materials to best meet the needs of the participants. Ms. Dukes came to work with the Alzheimer’s Association in 2014 and is committed to continuing to move the cause, vision and mission of the Alzheimer’s Association forward by providing education, support and guidance for all that have been impacted by this insidious disease.