Seven signs of Alzheimer’s

Seven signs of Alzheimer’s

It is estimated that over 425,000 Australians are living with dementia, with Alzheimer’s being the most common form of the disease.

Many people worry about the health of their brains as they get older, so knowing the signs of Alzheimer’s – as well as what can be done to prevent it – can really help ease your concerns.

Some of the signs of Alzheimer’s

Some of the warning signs to look out for if you’re concerned about yourself or a loved one include:

  1. Trouble remembering things to the point that forgetfulness is affecting daily life.
  2. Increasing difficulty and frequency finding the word you’re looking for – as well as the understandable frustration that results from this.
  3. Taking significantly longer to complete routine tasks.
  4. Repetitive questions and conversations.
  5. Trouble planning or problem solving – such as difficulty managing money.
  6. Disorientation – e.g. confusion around places and times.
  7. Deterioration in social skills and language.

It’s important to note that many people experience a level of slower memory recall as they get older known as Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) and this is not necessarily a sign of Alzheimer’s. According to Dementia Australia, “About 40% of people diagnosed with MCI recover normal cognitive function (although they do have a higher risk of developing dementia later on) and a further 20-30% do not decline further at all.”

Shirley’s story

Uniting aged care client, Shirley, was worried about her memory and decided to visit the GP who diagnosed her with Mild Cognitive Impairment. The GP reassured Shirley that Mild Cognitive Impairment does not necessarily mean she will go on to develop dementia.

Shirley wanted to know whether there was anything she could do to “slow things down”. Her GP assure that there’s lots that can be done to prevent the decline of brain health and shared some tips for reducing the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s:

  • Get mentally fit – Engage in mentally stimulating activities such a socialising with friends, joining a choir or learning a new language, game or artform can help. Joining a social club like Uniting Healthy Living for Seniors is a great place to start – the program offers a range of fun activities to keep you on top of your mental and social game.
  • Eat well – Maintaining a healthy Mediterranean diet is important for brain function. Shirley’s GP reminded her that she needed to reduce her vascular risk factors by keeping her blood pressure, blood glucose level, cholesterol level and weight within normal limits.
  • QUIT – Giving up smoking has been shown to slow down Mild Cognitive Impairment.
  • Work it – Shirley’s GP advised the best way to reduce dementia risk factors was through the regular physical exercise needed to keep our brains healthy as we age – 30 minutes of moderate exercise five times a week. Shirley’s GP also suggested a rude three letter word … GYM.

This last piece of advice was particularly hard for Shirley to hear. The last time she had gone to the gym had been a disaster, with a young trainer who had pushed her until she had chest pain and she ended up in hospital.

Shirley shared her concerns with a friend who suggested that she look into the nearby Uniting Senior’s Gym where they have exercise physiologists and physios who are trained to work with older people. Shirley went along and found the cost was reasonable and there was a great feeling of camaraderie.

Soon some of Shirley’s gym buddies invited her to join their church choir and, when she had trouble getting to practice, Uniting Home and Community Care was able to help with transport through the Commonwealth Home Support Program.

In the four years since that chat with her GP, Shirley says she has never felt fitter. She has built up her cognitive reserve – showing no signs of developing dementia. Shirley says she feels reassured because she knows that if she needs extra help – including dementia information – Uniting has her back.

Get in touch

For more information about how Uniting can help you stay on top of your mental, physical and social game, call 1800 864 846 or email us.

  • Paula Ross
    Posted at 09:08h, 04 October Reply

    My mum, had a really quick onset of dementia and although physically healthy she never recovered her mental state. I noticed cross word puzzles which were her favourite were unaffected and if we read her the clue she remembered the answer….all the while having dementia. So I’m not sure about use it or lose it in regard to memory as this part of her memory was fine but almost all other memories were lost.

    • Paul Hemsworth
      Posted at 13:58h, 04 October Reply

      Hi Paula,
      Sorry to her about your mum’s decline, dementia is very hard on the whole family. Although we can’t yet stop the decline caused by dementia there’s some good evidence for the ‘use it or loose it’ model to slow it down – particularly in mild to moderate cases – and, if nothing else, being mentally stimulated and physically active can also help the person’s quality of life.
      Thanks for your comment.
      Kind regards,
      The Uniting team

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