As loved ones age, Alzheimer’s disease can seem like an ever-present specter. Behind every pause in the middle of a conversation or word left stranded on the tip of a tongue, we fear that it’s the onset of Alzheimer’s. Personality changes—both real and perceived—also get caught up in our suspicions. But are those suspicions valid?
The truth is, memory and cognitive abilities decline somewhat with age, even without the presence of Alzheimer’s disease. These changes can affect the personalities of our loved ones as well, as can the realities of their changing living situation. Retirements, thoughts on mortality, a changing world, and the passing of friends and family can bring on natural changes in mood and outlook.
Add to this the fact that Stage 1 of Alzheimer’s disease does not have accompanying signs or symptoms. All in all, there is often no definitive “yes” or “no” as to whether those changes you’re perceiving are clues to the presence of Alzheimer’s.
However, while not every personality change means Alzheimer’s, every case of Alzheimer’s includes changes in personality. In this article, we outline some of those changes to provide context and information.
It’s important to remember that Alzheimer’s involves more than just a loss of memory; it also causes overall cognitive decline. This decline manifests in several different ways, including as a difficulty solving problems or performing once-routine tasks. Those suffering from Alzheimer’s may begin losing things more frequently or have trouble remembering what they were in the middle of doing.
If you think these changes are difficult to observe, imagine trying to grapple with them as they affect your own mind. As those with Alzheimer’s begin to face this decline, a feeling of confusion is common.
This confusion most often leads to agitation. These feelings of anger and frustration grow as the disease starts to interfere with more and more aspects of daily life. Judgement begins to decline, especially with money, creating difficult situations that lead to more confusion. The suspicion that they may be forgetting something leads to even greater frustration. The concern of loved ones can also be met with anger, as the person suffering from Alzheimer’s is confronted with fear over something they haven’t yet come to terms with themselves.
While confusion and agitation can serve as early warning signs, withdrawal can often be the biggest indication that something is wrong. We may notice that our loved one, who has always been outgoing, frequently calling to ask when the kids are coming over or making plans with retired friends, suddenly begins to keep to themselves more and more. The requests for a visit may grow less frequent or cease altogether, and our own attempts to make plans are met with rebuttal. Plans with friends have seemingly dropped off as well. As the presence of Alzheimer’s becomes harder to deny, those suffering from the disease many times feel embarrassed or even frightened. In an effort to keep those feelings to themselves and prevent being “found out”, they begin to withdraw from the world around them.
That isolation accelerates the slide into depression. As capabilities decrease and loved ones are kept at a distance, Alzheimer’s sufferers are left to deal with a disease they can no longer ignore.
It’s at this point that the need for care becomes most pronounced at a memory care facility. To find out if our memory care community is suitable for your loved one, please give us a call at The Woodleigh of Baton Rouge at 225-272-1401.