Alzheimer's Disease

  • Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking, and behavior. Symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks.
  • Alzheimer's disease accounts for 50 to 80 percent of dementia cases.
  • Alzheimer's disease is the sixth-leading cause of death across all ages in the United States. It is the fifth-leading cause of death for those aged 65 and older.

Signs & Symptoms:

  • Memory loss that disrupts daily life
  • Challenges in planning or solving problems
  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work, or at leisure
  • Confusion with time or place
  • Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
  • New problems with words in speaking or writing
  • Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
  • Decreased or poor judgment
  • Withdrawal from work or social activities
  • Changes in mood and personality
  • Rapid mood swings due to anxiety, suspiciousness, or agitation
  • Wandering or becoming lost and not knowing where one lives

Risk Factors:

  • Age
  • Family history
  • Heredity
  • Head trauma
  • Head-heart connection – (high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and high cholesterol) can effect blood circulation to the brain

Healthy aging (avoiding tobacco and excessive alcohol use, staying socially connected, and exercising both your body and mind) can lower risk for Alzheimer's disease

Tips for First Responders:

  • Search the immediate vicinity – 94% of people are found within 1.5 miles of where they disappeared.
  • Look around the landscape trouble spots (ponds, tree/fence lines) – 29% of people are found within brush or briar.
  • Use information from previous wandering episodes or other repetitive patterns to point to the most likely destinations; consider areas of the individual's past jobs or homes.
  • Approach the individual from the front, and establish and maintain eye contact.
  • Identify yourself and be prepared to repeat who you are.
  • Look for identifiers such as a Safe Return® bracelet, necklace, lapel pin, key chain, or label inside his or her clothing collar.
  • Persons with Alzheimer's disease who have wandered are at a high risk for dehydration and hypothermia. Many people with Alzheimer's also have serious medical conditions and will most likely not have necessary medications with them.
    • Seek additional medical attention immediately when signs are present
  • Move individuals away from crowds and noisy areas which increase agitation and panic.
  • Turn off flashing lights and lower radio volume.
  • Speak slowly in a low-pitched, clear tone, and use short and simple sentences.
  • Keep individual included in the conversation.
  • Ask one question at a time.
  • Give simple step-by-step instructions – also, try non-verbal communications. If you want the individual to sit down, show them by sitting down yourself.
  • Explain your intended actions before you do them – avoid physical contact that is restraining when possible and safe for the individual, yourself, and others.
  • Anticipate difficulties and confusion when trying to make yourself understood – do not assume that individuals understand who you are. They may not be capable of answering your questions or complying with instructions.
  • Never challenge an individual's logic or reasoning.
  • Do not leave individuals alone as they may wander.
  • Encourage family members and caregivers to contact the Safe Return® program or Project Lifesaver to register the individual if they have not already done so.

Sources: Alzheimer's Association (2006); Alzheimer's Association (2011); United States Department of Justice (2010)