Peter Heath

Alzheimer's Disease

It's important to bear in mind that not all Alzheimer's sufferers are affected in exactly the same way, and some symptoms may not appear in one sufferer at all, and those self-same symptoms may dominate the condition in another. We're all different, we're all individuals and Alzheimer's sufferers are all individuals too.

That said, the most common symptom of Alzheimer's disease is memory loss. This isn't the common forgetfulness we all experience, like forgetting someone's name for the moment, misplacing the car keys or forgetting to take the butter out the freezer, (although most Alzheimer's suffers also share these particular maladies) but more typically it presents itself as difficulty, or in many cases, as an inability to retrieve the memory of recent events. For example, most of us can remember what we had for lunch yesterday, but an individual with early-onset Alzheimer's might find that information to be irretrievable. They might also misplace things in seemingly absurd locations, like putting the laundry in the rubbish bin, or shoes in the freezer.

Later on in the progress of the disease, a sufferer might also find it difficult to describe something they know very well, like how to describe the way to the loo, because the very simple words they want to use, like ‘turn right’ just won't come out. ‘Turn right’ might be substituted, perhaps to avoid embarrassment, with a word with a completely different meaning, or perhaps even with a made-up word. Damage to the left hemisphere, frequently linked to semantic memory and language, might be the culprit. This sort of event clearly can prove extremely frustrating for the sufferer, perhaps resulting in irritability and depression.

In fact, abrupt changes of mood or behaviour, not for the reason I have just described, but quite randomly, and perhaps without any apparent trigger, is certainly yet another symptom of this devastating condition.

Part 2: everyday tasks