Alzheimer’s Disease and Anxiety: Learning to Cope

Alzheimer’s Vs. Dementia

Although these terms seem relatively interchangeable, there is a big difference between the two. Both terms are generally reserved for the memory loss exhibited by the elderly. Both can also set in as soon as your 30s. 

One of the most significant differences between the two is that Dementia is a syndrome, meaning the cause of the disease has not yet been identified; while, Alzheimer’s is a disease, which causes changes to the anatomy, has a definite cause, and established symptoms. However, Alzheimer’s still technically falls under the umbrella of Dementia.

Symptoms And Effects Of Alzheimer’s

The difficulty of remembering recent events and conversations is one of the most well-known symptoms of Alzheimer’s, but the symptoms surely go beyond that. The most common, and easiest to spot are having trouble expressing their thoughts and feelings with the appropriate words, repeatedly leaving items in places that don’t make much sense or getting lost in areas that are familiar to them. Remember, these are all variations simple mistakes or lapses in memory we all make every day. If you notice a loved one having difficulty with one of these, that does not necessarily mean they are expressing symptoms of Alzheimer’s. 

With an Alzheimer’s diagnosis at any age, the severity of symptoms or effects is likely to grow with age, furthering the, especially with early-onset Alzheimer’s. When these symptoms become more severe, you or your loved one may experience some of the following: incontinence, difficulty in expressing or describing pain, or even lung infections because of problems in effectively swallowing.

Alzheimer’s And Anxiety

You may be familiar with the term anxiety, as over 40 million American adults are affected by some sort of anxiety disorder, making anxiety the most common mental illness in the US. But what exactly does this have to do with Alzheimer’s? 

All the symptoms we’ve mentioned are indeed known signs of Alzheimer’s, another one to keep in mind is worsening anxiety in older people. There is a protein called beta-amyloid that is sometimes found to be present when a person’s symptoms of anxiety are increasing; this protein is also linked to Alzheimer’s.

More than half of anxiety sufferers are also diagnosed with depression, which is probably why anxiety and depression are often lumped together, while they do differ. Depression is a mood disorder that affects almost all aspects of a person’s life. 

Typically, people experiencing depression will exhibit symptoms such as a notable change in appetite, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, suicidal thoughts, or difficulty sleeping, along with many others. Much like the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, these are all things we experience from time to time, but when they are severe and prolonged, they may be of significance.

If you suspect that you or a loved one are exhibiting symptoms of anxiety or depression that point towards an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, there are facilities, like The Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s or The Ross Center for anxiety and related disorders that will be able to help you and provide you with a diagnosis and treatment plan.

How To Cope With Alzheimer’s

Getting a definite Alzheimer’s diagnosis is difficult, no matter the situation, so we’ve gathered a few tips on how to cope. One of the easiest things you can do is to learn as much as you can about Alzheimer’s, this way you will know exactly what to expect. 

Another simple way to ease the shock of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis is to create a welcoming, comfortable environment for your loved one to come back to, something they can rely on and seek comfort in. It will be hard, but you can do it.