September is World Alzheimer’s Month, and part of understanding Alzheimer’s disease is learning to recognize when your loved one needs help and standing by them no matter what comes. At Roseville Diagnostic Hearing Center, we are committed to raising awareness around Alzheimer’s disease, as we are aware of the connections between untreated hearing loss and an increased risk for dementia. Coincidentally, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia.
What is Alzheimer’s disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is a chronic neurodegenerative disease that causes slow cognitive decline. This decline is linked to mood swings, difficulty with language and difficulty remembering recent events. This decline often causes them to withdraw from their normal events and family. They ultimately lose connection with their friends, family and themselves.
Early Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease
As we age, we notice the changes day by day. This can include new gray hairs the latest wrinkle or ache that wasn’t previously there. As our minds age, the dendrites in the brain slowly get pruned back through just age. This leads to lapses in memory or loss of words. This is common for all people as they age, but the problem with it is knowing when it has gone too far.
Memory problems are the first signs that Alzheimer’s could be developing. This is not the only sign though. It is one of several that mark a slow decline. The other signs of cognitive problems are:
- Getting lost doing everyday routines like forgetting the way to the grocery store.
- Asking the same question repeatedly.
- Getting confused when doing normal tasks like checking the mail.
- Trouble with money like paying the bills or having the right amount of money for basics like buying food.
- Losing or leaving things in places they don’t belong.
- Poor judgment in basic situations.
- Personality shifts.
Any or all of the above symptoms can be included when talking about Alzheimer’s disease with loved ones. Getting your loved one’s help when these signs become evident is critical for early intervention and preparation.
What Causes Alzheimer’s disease?
There is no known cause for Alzheimer’s disease. At this point in time, it looks to be a combination of factors.
There are links to genetic factors in a handful of causes that this type of cognitive difficulty can run in families. There are signs of inheritance cognitive declines if one of three genes has a mutation. There are early screenings that can be done to detect these three gene mutations, but having the mutations only indicates a higher risk for developing the disease; it is not a conclusive indicator.
- Amyloidal Hypotheses
The gene on chromosome 21 is thought by some to lead to excess amyloidal buildup which ultimately leads to developing the disease. Age-related decline through chromosome 21 is not conclusive. A study was done in 2017 tested proteins tied to this chromosome, but it was discontinued after they found no possible clinical effects. Trials have continued into 2018 and 2019 which are just as inclusive.
Alzheimer’s disease and hearing loss
Alzheimer’s disease and hearing loss are both connected to cognitive declines. It is accelerated in elderly adults and while hearing aids do help them keep their hearing. There is evidence that who do not need hearing aids have the same cognitive levels as those who have hearing loss. It also is connected to an accelerated decline in cognitive abilities.
Hearing loss and dementia are linked in multiple studies. In several studies, it has been theorized that treating hearing loss could reduce the decline of cognitive abilities in the elderly. This includes memory loss, confusion and the loss of the ability to plan. Aggressive intervention into hearing declines may reduce the possible cognitive declines seen in aging.
While a lot of the current research and understanding into hearing loss and dementia are speculative, there is enough of a link to hearing a loss to encourage family members to intervene and try to help their loved ones seek help before the problems become too pronounced. It may also provide a possible link to later cognitive declines if checked and caught early by family physicians. Hearing loss and dementia have positive links, but need full conclusive research studies to back them up.
Getting a professional to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease might not be easy as no one wants to hear of their own slow decline, but getting your loved ones to a doctor early can help with reducing their fears and helping them through their own acceptance.
They diagnose Alzheimer’s disease and dementia from the behaviors observed by friends and relatives, the medical history of your loved one and the history of any other relatives who may have been diagnosed or exhibited similar behaviors. Medical imaging can help detect and the first signs of cognitive decline and assess the stage of the illness.
There are four different stages to this disease and each one has its own set of signs and stages.
This is the hardest part of Alzheimer’s to start with. As we all age, we will have cognitive and physical declines, but separating average declines with Alzheimer’s disease or other cognitive declines is difficult. It is common for people to forget where they put things when they are any age or to miss-remember something. It’s part of being human.
It often takes years for the person with a neurological degenerative disease to be diagnosed because while your loved ones exhibit noticeable deficits of memory and other cognitive difficulties, it does not mean they have the disease. It is termed mild cognitive impairment and the fine lines of true distress and problems are hard to find.
- Early Alzheimer’s disease
As signs of cognitive impairment become more evident, it does lead to a firmer diagnosis. The difficulty with finally diagnosing people with this disease comes with it not affecting all of the mental capabilities or their ability to operate mostly normally the rest of the time.
Some of the earliest and most pronounced problems are associated with language. Their vocabulary is noticeably shrinking and your loved one will exhibit difficulty communicating their ideas and life effectively. They will also have trouble with motor coordination and difficulty with common tasks.
- Moderate Alzheimer’s disease
Once the disease reaches moderate levels, your loved ones are having trouble living their everyday lives. They are having trouble communicating and their more basic skills like reading and writing are done with difficulty. They are also exhibiting more extreme levels of memory loss and impairment. This can include getting lost on the way to the store or not remembering their children’s names.
Behaviors will be noticeably different for your loved ones at this point. They will be struggling with their loss of faculties and it will cause frustration. They will be frustrated by their own inability to do something they know they have done. They will exhibit outbursts, fits of crying, and anger as they try to fight what they know isn’t right.
- Advanced Alzheimer’s disease
Once this last and final stage is reached your loved one will be unable to care for themselves. They have often lost all ability to communicate and complete connection to the world they once lived in. They will need constant care and you will need to take steps for accepting their complete loss.
Roseville Diagnostic Hearing Center
We love our parents, sisters, brothers, and friends. It is hardest for those of us left behind to see this pain and to be unable to do anything about it. Getting your loved ones to take a hearing test early can grant them untold years of being connected. Contact us at Roseville Diagnostic Hearing Center today!