Julie Genthe: Is it Alzheimer’s? How to spot cognitive decline | NevadaAppeal.com

Julie Genthe: Is it Alzheimer’s? How to spot cognitive decline

Julie Genthe, RN

Have you noticed your loved one exhibiting occasional forgetfulness? While memory loss has often been considered a normal part of the aging process, today we know it can be evidence of something more serious: Alzheimer's disease.

Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia, a general term for memory loss and cognitive decline that can interfere with daily life. Alzheimer's disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of all dementia cases.

Alzheimer's disease impacts more than 5 million Americans each year and is now the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. While some signs of aging are common milestones, catching warnings at their earliest onset can help families navigate the challenges of a memory disorder.

Early on, individuals might exhibit occasional forgetfulness, but are still able to function independently. As the disease progresses, a person could become more confused, have trouble remembering personal information and can struggle performing routine tasks.

The following signs might mean your loved one is experiencing the early stages of a potential memory disorder:

Increased short-term memory loss and forgetfulness: A common early symptom of Alzheimer's disease is difficulty remembering new information. Challenges remembering daily or weekly recurring activities are also potential indications of something more than typical forgetfulness. These signs of memory loss often increase over time, and you might find this person repeats themselves frequently or forgets critical information like the dosage for their medication or when to take it.

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A shift in personality: If a person's mood fluctuates depending on the time of day, or they're displaying odd behaviors like accusing others of doing or saying something inaccurate, or their tone of voice alters inconsistently — it could be an indication of memory-loss complications.

A change in hygiene: Is a loved one's hair uncombed or are they constantly forgetting to brush their teeth? Are they no longer going to the barber or hair stylist with their usual regularity? These are indications a person's memory might be changing as it becomes harder to perform their routine personal tasks.

If you notice signs of cognitive decline in your loved one, it may be time to escalate care and treatment. A good place to begin is an appointment with your loved one's primary care provider.

Fortunately, studies also show with cognitive stimulation programs, individuals can strengthen and improve certain brain regions to delay or decrease the risk of dementia. These programs have been shown to help seniors improve their concentration and overall memory ability through creative and engaging activities.

Today's seniors have more options than ever when it comes to treating the effects of cognitive decline. Dedicated memory care programs are designed to care for those living with Alzheimer's and other memory disorders by keeping them active and engaged.

Julie Genthe, RN, is a registered nurse and Expressions Memory Care product manager. She has worked for Prestige Care, Inc. for more than 20 years. Carson Tahoe Expressions Memory Care at Carson Tahoe Care Center will be opening in January 2019.