Alzheimer’s is progressive; it worsens over time. Isolated incidents are not indicators of Alzheimer’s. Behavioral trends over time are your best indication that something is wrong. Tracking these behaviors can prevent you from over-analyzing each isolated instance of forgetfulness and help you back up to see the whole picture. If you do find yourself in a doctor’s office at some point discussing your loved one’s possible dementia, these notes will be a big help to the doctor.
So which behaviors should you track?
Slips in Short-Term Memory
One of the more difficult to grasp aspects of Alzheimer’s is how the disease begins its assault on short-term memory, leaving long-term memory unscathed until it progresses further. You may feel that there’s no way your loved one has Alzheimer’s—how could they? They just recounted a story from 30 years ago without missing a single detail. But that’s not what to pay attention to. What you’ll start to notice is a failure to remember fairly recent things. Does your loved one remember what they had for breakfast? Where they went the day before? If these memory lapses occur, be sure to track them.
Just as you’re on the lookout for the signs of dementia in your loved one, they too are trying to see it coming. If Alzheimer’s does begin to affect your loved one, they’ll notice those memory slips and other dementia-related impediments. That can lead to anger, embarrassment, guilt, and a whole host of other negative emotions. This causes many folks to keep to themselves more and more. Try to be aware of the times your loved one turns down invitations to get together with family or friends.
Loss of Temper
These frustrations don’t only lead to withdrawal. It’s normal to grow angry and defensive, emotions that manifest in the form of lashing out. Folks may lose their temper more frequently, snapping at friends or family members who correct them or try to help out when they’re at a loss for words. Take care to track these outbursts.
Alzheimer’s disease works in two directions, stealing old memories while making it more difficult to learn new things. If you find yourself giving the same lessons or answering the same questions—how to access the camera app on the phone, what your child is doing after high school, or a host of other things—note these instances.
Difficulty Following Directions
Step-by-step directions get more difficult to follow as Alzheimer’s takes hold. This includes recipes, navigational directions, or instructions on setting up a new device. Alzheimer’s can strike even if your loved one has followed these directions before. Getting lost coming home from someplace familiar or getting tripped up on a favorite recipe are all worth taking note of.