Alzheimer’s Awareness Month: Warning Sings & Elder Abuse Help

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What Is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Every year, thousands of Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, a degenerative form of dementia that can cause memory loss, poor coordination, and even death. First and foremost, Alzheimer’s robs people of their memories, breaks down their brain tissues, and worsens over the course of time.

Adults over the age of 65 are most likely to develop Alzheimer’s. The disease may start early and go unnoticed for a long time. The first major symptom of Alzheimer’s that patients notice is a difficulty recalling recent events, even if they don’t have trouble remembering events that occurred in the past.

Researchers aren’t sure what causes Alzheimer’s, but they do know two distinct types of damage in the brain may cause its symptoms:

  • The build-up of beta-amyloid proteins
  • Tangled nerve cells, also known as neurofibrillary tangles

Alzheimer’s is a terminal disease and as of now, researchers haven’t found a cure. Some patients live for decades after diagnosis, others just a few years. It all depends on when a doctor catches the disease. There are some early warning signs that could signal the early development of Alzheimer’s disease.

Early Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s is divided into three stages: mild Alzheimer’s, which usually lasts between two and four years; moderate Alzheimer’s, which can last between two and 10 years; and severe Alzheimer’s, which usually lasts between one and three years. The symptoms develop slowly and worsen as time passes.

Early Alzheimer’s is the first and least severe stage of the disease. Patients with early Alzheimer’s first notice small lapses in memory that get progressively worse. Early warning signs include:

  • Mild issues with coordination, such as trouble writing with a pen or pencil, typing on a computer, and other daily tasks
  • Mood swings
  • Low energy and motivation
  • Trouble driving
  • Low interest in work, school, and social activities
  • More time spent sitting, watching TV, and sleeping
  • Issues with language and putting words to thoughts
  • Difficulty with daily tasks, such as following directions, cooking from a recipe, or doing simple math
  • Loss of recent memories

Not all these symptoms are an indication of Alzheimer’s, however. Drug abuse, depression, Parkinson’s disease, stress, and thyroid issues can all contribute to the symptoms listed above. Sometimes, mixing new medications can also cause Alzheimer’s-like symptoms. The best way to know if someone has Alzheimer’s is to get a proper diagnosis from a doctor.

Alzheimer’s Disease and Elder Abuse

All people deserve respect and dignity, including individuals with Alzheimer’s disease. However, the degenerative nature of this disease on the human brain makes senior citizens with Alzheimer’s vulnerable to elder abuse. Because the victim is in a disoriented state, the signs of elder abuse may not be obvious until it is too late.

The most common type of elder abuse is financial abuse. It can also be psychological, physical, sexual, or spiritual in nature. Victims of elder abuse may have money stolen from them, become isolated from their families, and suffer mental and physical injuries. Caregivers or nursing homes may neglect or abandon them.

Because Alzheimer’s affects recent memory and damages brain tissue, elder abusers take advantage of the elder’s mental state. The senior citizen may not notice that his or her money has gone missing. He or she may forget why they got a bruise or cut. Some abusers may over-medicate elders with Alzheimer’s to hurt them, and the elders may not realize that they had already taken their medication for that day.