According to the Alzheimer’s Association, one of the early warning signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s is “withdrawal from work or social activities” as they experience changes in the ability to hold or follow a conversation.
As the disease progresses and these changes become more prominent, there’s an increased risk of isolation for the person diagnosed with a form of dementia and their Caregiver. Staying home becomes “easier” than navigating the world and social situations. However, this can create loneliness, hopelessness and depression. Finding balance can be difficult. It’s also difficult for those not experiencing the disease firsthand to understand the frustrations and obstacles. It is the hope that bringing awareness to the disease helps us as a community to further support this growing demographic.
With that said, what does disease progression look like? The inability to hold or follow a conversation evolves into the inability to process information correctly. The disease is causing changes to the brain. A Caregiver may start seeing odd outcomes on tasks that were previously second nature. Making a pot of coffee but didn’t use a filter. Getting dressed but clothes don’t match or are backwards. Following a favorite family recipe and leaving out a main ingredient. And just to keep things interesting, one day the individual living with Alzheimer’s/dementia will perform a task perfectly… while the next day they look lost at how to start or what to do.
This inability to process information correctly can start creating unsafe situations. An individual may begin the task of cooking but gets distracted, thereby creating a fire risk. An environment suddenly becomes unfamiliar, forgetting where they are or what they’re doing, and they may wander (or drive) until they can make sense of the situation again. It also affects their problem solving skills. They may appear to be lying about an event but it can simply be how their brain is trying to make sense of the stimuli around them.
If you are seeing signs and having concerns, start with talking to the family physician and building your team of support. If you’re further down the road with the disease, look for community resources to help meet the needs you have at this moment in time. And as a community, let’s increase dementia awareness!