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St. Joseph's Health Centre Toronto

How to tell if a loved one has Alzheimer’s disease

img_1218One in five patients who visit St. Joseph’s Health Centre is 65 years and older, and this group of people is most at risk for Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia that affects the brain, making it difficult for a person to think and remember clearly.

Our team of doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals provides care to the person who is going through this life-changing illness, and also supports their family members who are just as impacted by this progressive disease.

Statistics Canada says one in five Canadians aged 45 and older provides some form of care to seniors living with long-term health problems. Sharon Mulsant, Nurse Practitioner, said it can be hard for family members to recognize if a loved one has Alzheimer’s – here are five things she said to watch for:

  1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life – in particular, short term memory or forgetting recently learned information. Examples include:
  • asking for the same information over and over or relying on memory aids or family for things they used to remember on their own
  • forgetting the rules to your favourite game
  • losing track of important dates, names or events
  1. Challenges in planning or solving problems. Examples include:
  • trouble making plans and sticking to them
  • difficulty following a familiar recipe or working with numbers/paying bills
  • problems concentrating
  1. Lapses in judgement. Examples include:
  • making mistakes with money (like giving it away when you normally wouldn’t)
  • not showering as often
  • dressing inappropriately for the weather
  1. New trouble with words in speaking or writing. Examples include:
  • difficulty following/joining new conversations
  • having trouble with word finding/calling things by the right name
  1. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps. Examples include:
  • putting things in unusual places (an iron in the freezer)
  • losing things and being unable to find them
  • accusing other people of stealing things

What to do if you think a loved one has Alzheimer’s disease

Taking them to see a doctor (in particular a geriatrician, neurologist or psychiatrist) is important. Diagnosing Alzheimer’s can be difficult. Patients will typically undergo cognitive testing and sometimes bloodwork or scans to rule out other medical diseases that can cause or contribute to confusion.

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