Do you know the early warning signs of Alzheimer's disease?

Caring for aging loved ones -- such as your parents -- is a difficult but rewarding task. You can help them fulfill certain obligations that they cannot handle anymore, such as major house repairs and deep cleaning. You can repay some of the kindness you experienced when they helped you grow up and become an adult.

However, you likely have a limit to what you are capable of doing for your loved one. You may have a full-time job, as well as children of your own that require care. Depending on your age, you may have limits to your own physical abilities and mobility.

If your aging loved ones develop symptoms of serious medical conditions, such as Alzheimer's disease, you may need to think about long-term care.

Nursing homes and similar facilities can provide excellent care to residents with conditions like Alzheimer's disease, which can result in extreme dementia and memory loss. Knowing the early warning signs of Alzheimer's disease can help you get the best care for your loved ones. In some cases, you may even be able to take steps to slow the progress of the condition.

Look for issues with memory and motor function

The most obvious warning signs related to early Alzheimer's disease involve the memory and motor capabilities of your loved one. They may begin to struggle to recall how to do things that they were once very good at. An example would be someone who has knitted for 50 years forgetting how to cast on a knitting project. Planning and problem solving may become more difficult.

Your loved one may also start losing things with increased frequency. Once they realize they have lost something, they may not be able to retrace their steps in order to locate it. These are serious warning signs of cognitive decline.

Those with the early stages of Alzheimer's disease may also struggle with spatial reasoning. They may no longer be able to visually estimate the distance between their body and nearby objects. That can lead to an increased risk for knocking things over, slamming into furniture or falling.

Changes in mood and social habits are also warning signs

In many cases, Alzheimer's disease affects the personality of the person with the condition. You may notice a marked change in the attitude or daily mood of your loved one. Their personality may also change. Some may start to exhibit personality traits they had earlier in life, while others may start developing into someone else entirely.

If you have any reason to suspect that your loved one is potentially struggling with early Alzheimer's disease, you should seek medical care immediately. The sooner you catch it, the better your chances of being able to communicate effectively with your loved one about their medical preferences. It may also be time to consider a guardianship.

Anyone caring for aging loved ones should talk to them about creating an advanced medical directive outlining their medical preferences before any issues with cognitive decline begin.

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