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World Alzheimer's Day is September 21 - 10 Warning Signs of Cognitive Decline to Look Out For

World Alzheimer’s Month is held every September to raise awareness and challenge the stigma around dementia, and World Alzheimer’s Day is commemorated yearly on September 21st. 2021 marks ten years of this global campaign uniting people and organizations in support, solidarity, and awareness. 

Alzheimer’s Disease affects more than 6 million Americans aged 65 and over. That number is expected to more than double in the next 30 years, yet many people avoid talking about it - which is why education around Alzheimer’s Disease is so important. Stigma and misunderstanding surrounding the disease prevents many retirees and their families from: 

  • Seeking medical care when symptoms are present 
  • Getting diagnosed early or sometimes at all
  • Benefitting form available treatments 
  • Building adequate support systems 
  • Enjoying their best quality of life

The Alzheimer's Association Walk to End Alzheimer's® is the world's largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer's care, support and research. The Association’s Colorado Chapter is holding its Walk at Denver City Park on September 18th

The most important thing you can do to get involved is educating yourself and others about the warning signs of dementia. But you can also:

  • Make a monetary donation
  • Volunteer with an Alzheimer’s organization
  • Wear purple on September 27th in support of Alzheimer’s awareness

Impact of Alzheimer’s on Retirees and Their Families 

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, and it’s becoming more prevalent.

  • 1 in 3 senior citizens die with Alzheimer's or another type of dementia 
  • Every 65 seconds, someone in the U.S. develops Alzheimer's Disease
  • Around 200,000 Americans under 65 have early-onset Alzheimer's disease.
  • By 2050, nearly 14 million Americans are expected to have Alzheimer's Disease

Progressive Alzheimer’s Disease can be very difficult, emotionally, for individuals, their families, and caregivers. It’s also extremely costly, often requiring long term care with an approximate lifetime Cost of $374,000 for one person.

As concerning as it is healthwise, Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia pose an added risk for seniors, since financial or legal missteps could derail your retirement savings plan. And many online scams prey on seniors specifically.

10 Potential Warning Signs of Cognitive Decline 

Dementia is a general term for conditions involving loss of memory, language, problem-solving and other thinking abilities that are severe enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s causes a progressive decline in memory, thinking and reasoning skills, and eventually takes people’s lives. 

It’s natural for children to begin worrying about their elder parents at some point. In retired couples, one person may notice changes in their partner. Whether for yourself or someone you care about, knowing the warning signs of dementia is key to ensuring an early diagnosis. 

Symptoms also vary from person to person, and also by type of dementia. However, here are common 10 warning signs to look out for:

  1. Memory loss that disrupts daily activities - Early stage signs may include asking the same question multiple times, forgetting recently learned information or forgetting important dates.
  2. Difficulty performing familiar tasks - For example making a grocery list or remembering the rules of a beloved card game or sport. 
  3. Difficulties with language - Such as forgetting the names of common objects or using the wrong name; having trouble following a conversation or completing a story.
  4. Confusion with time and place Losing track of dates, seasons, or the passage of time; forgetting where you are or how you got there.
  5. Poor or decreased judgement - Common examples include misjudgements with finances, and a decline in personal hygiene and grooming.
  6. Challenges in planning and problem solving - Following a familiar recipe or doing a simple calculation may seem more difficult or take longer than usual for someone with dementia.
  7. Misplacing things - A person with Alzheimer's may misplace things without being able to retrace their steps, or put things in unusual places. In progressive cases, they may accuse people of stealing things they’ve misplaced.
  8. Mood swings and personality changes - People living with Alzheimer’s may feel confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious. 
  9. Trouble with images and spatial relationships - Folks with Alzheimer’s may have healthy eyes, yet experience difficulty in perceiving images or judging distances. 
  10. Withdrawal from work or social activities - As a result of confusion or loss of the ability to follow games and conversations, a person with Alzheimer’s disease may withdraw from hobbies, social activities or other engagements.

It can be tough to know what to do if you notice any of these signs in yourself or another person. Many age-related changes are completely normal, after all, and people may be wary of voicing observations about changes in their loved one’s cognitive abilities. At the same time, many retirees feel reluctant to bring up any worries about their own health to adult children.

Experiencing one or two of these things occasionally is probably not something to worry about. But don’t ignore warning signs that could indicate significant health issues. If you have serious concerns or if you notice these warning signs in yourself or someone you know, seek a medical evaluation. 

Early detection often means relief of some symptoms, improved quality of life, and maintaining your independence longer (or helping your retired parent or loved one live independently, longer). 

Be Financially and Legally Prepared for Whatever Happens 

Financial planning is another important, but often ignored aspect of managing Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Putting financial and legal plans in place now allows you to express your wishes for future care and other decisions. It can also save your family from stress and questions down the road. Consider meeting with your legal and financial advisors to examine and update arrangements for:

  • Will
  • Living trust
  • The individual’s future estate 
  • Advance directives
  • Powers of attorney
  • Long term care 

A little preparation can bring incredible peace of mind if you or someone else develops dementia or progresses beyond the point of making decisions on their own.  

When it comes to something as important as your financial plans, you want someone who will act in your best interest no matter what. To learn how you can go further with a fiduciary financial advisor, get our free guide

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