Alzheimer’s Affects More Than Just Memory

Senior with Memory LossAlzheimer’s disease affects almost 44 million people worldwide, but only 1 in 4 people have been officially diagnosed. Alzheimer’s involves more than simple memory loss; knowing all the signs and symptoms could help getting a loved one the help they need. In fact, a recent study found that memory loss is not always the first symptom in younger individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, making it all the more important to recognize other symptoms. Remember, early intervention may delay onset of symptoms of the disease.

Josephine Barnes, PhD, Alzheimer’s Research UK Senior Research Fellow at University College London and leading author of this study, found that memory loss is not the only initial symptom of Alzheimer’s. The study analyzed 7,815 people in the US National Alzheimer’s Coordinating Center (NACC) database which includes data from individuals attending Alzheimer’s centers across the United States, making it one of the largest studies to date. The age of the individuals ranged from 36 to 110, with the average age at 75. All individuals had an Alzheimer’s diagnosis and the symptoms they noticed in the beginning stages of the disease were noted.

Memory loss was the most common first symptom in all age groups, but younger individuals were more likely to report non-memory problems first, such as difficulties with problem-solving, language or visual and spatial awareness. About 25% of those under 60 reported a non-memory problem first compared to 20% for those in their 60s, 10% for those in their 70s and less than 7% for those in their 80s.

Age differences were also apparent when comparing the type of behavioral symptom that was first reported. Apathy and withdrawal were most commonly reported across all age groups. However, younger individuals were more likely to face depression or anxiety while older people were more likely to experience either psychosis or no behavioral symptoms at all.

Alzheimer’s can affect individuals in various ways that are not limited to memory loss alone. Other symptoms include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Difficulties with visual and spatial relationships
  • Challenges completing familiar tasks, problem-solving or making judgements
  • Problems with writing and speaking, which may affect ability to recognize social cues
  • Difficulties in focusing on given information while ignoring competing distractions
  • Changes in mood or personality and social withdrawal

If you notice a loved one exhibiting these signs frequently and with familiar tasks, contact your local physician about your symptoms. The Cognitive Therapeutics Method™, an in-home activities program to promote brain health, targets more than just memory with activities focused on executive functioning, visual-spatial perception, language, attention and more.