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Community Views: The Lesser-Known Aspects of Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is far more complicated than many people realize. It affects the brain in so many different ways. Plus, different people experience different symptoms.

To learn more about the lesser-known symptoms of this diagnosis, we reached out to followers of our Facebook page and asked, “What are the parts of Alzheimer’s that most people do not know about?”

More than 130 community members commented. Here is what was said:

Memory loss doesn't occur all at once

Memory loss is not linear. It does not diminish all at once, nor are all parts of the brain affected equally at the same time. People with Alzheimer’s may remember all of the lyrics to their favorite song or how to play a card game they have spent years enjoying.

“Interesting fact, for example, is that they remember how to play bridge but do not remember why they are in the nursing home!”

Hallucinations

Hallucinations can be incredibly common with this diagnosis. In some cases, these hallucinations occur as the person with Alzheimer’s or dementia talks to people who are not in the room or even people who died years ago. At first, it may be unsettling to witness, but it is harmless – and it may even provide a sense of comfort to the person with Alzheimer’s.

“Hearing a crying baby.”

“When she talks to people who are not in the room.”

“The state of psychosis.”

Awareness of diagnosis

The most common belief is that people with Alzheimer’s have no idea they have it, but that is not always the case. Especially in the early stages of Alzheimer's, many people living with the diagnosis know something is wrong. They often recognize they are forgetting information. For example, they can recognize their loved ones but forget their names.

“They are so often aware of having it and all its horrors.”

“At the beginning, they know their mind is failing. At that point, it is just so scary for them.”

“Knowing your mind is deteriorating.”

Mood changes

Many people with Alzheimer’s still experience joy and happiness – as well as anger and sadness. However, some living with the condition become withdrawn. This tends to happen as their conscious thoughts wane and they are interacting with people and their environment less.

“Lost emotions of any kind, whether it is anger, sadness, or compassion.”

Inability to read

This diagnosis affects the use of words, whether through speech, writing, or reading. In the later stages of dementia, most people with Alzheimer’s will slowly forget what words mean. Plus, memory impairment makes it hard to recall what they just read.

“Not being able to read.”

Depression & loss of appetite

Alzheimer’s alone does not cause a loss of appetite. However, depression can be common among people living with Alzheimer’s, and this can lead to a lack of interest in eating.

The diagnosis may also make it difficult for people with Alzheimer’s to communicate why they do not like the foods or drinks they have been served. Different medicines can also reduce appetite – in which case, talk to your loved one’s doctor about the possibility of adjusting their medicine.

“Not eating or drinking.”

Thank you to everyone who shared their experiences for this story. It is our hope that the details help the community learn more about the diagnosis and bring about more connection.

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