Warning Sign of Alzheimer’s: Understanding Spatial Relationships and Visual Images

As the symptoms of Alzheimer’s become more pronounced, friends and family may begin to see a decrease in coordination or what appears to be a problem with vision. The ability to make sense or understand visual images and spatial relationships is the fifth of the 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s. This sign is exhibited by spilling or dropping things more often, having trouble with balance, tripping over curbs, area rugs, or mistaking dark patterns in carpeting or tile floors for holes, and trouble reading.

When someone begins having vision problems, it’s important to get a checkup by a family physician or an optometrist especially as problems with reading, judging distance and determining color or contrast increase. Families in Association education classes and support groups share examples of a loved one who can’t find their coffee cup right in front of them on the breakfast table or a husband who was a scratch golfer and now struggles with following their golf ball on the course. This warning sign also reveals itself in the concept of seeing your own reflection in the mirror. You may think someone else is in the room or even have a conversation with the person you see reflected there.

As we age we may experience typical changes to our vision. Putting the whole picture together is important; however, in order to determine if the changes are more serious and related to Alzheimer’s or another medical condition like cataracts or macular degeneration. That is one of the reasons it’s important to see your family doctor to determine whether there is another medical reason for issues related to trouble with vision and spatial relationships or if in fact the problems are occurring because of this most common form of dementia.

If you are worried about more than one change in yourself or someone you know, talk with them about the 10 Warning Signs and what they might be experiencing themselves. The Alzheimer’s Association can help. Call 800-272.3900 24 hours a day 7 days a week.

Marcia Shafer is the Northeastern Colorado Regional Director of the Alzheimer’s Association Colorado Chapter.  The office in Evans, near Greeley, serves the counties of Kit Carson, Lincoln, Logan, Morgan, Phillips, Sedgwick, Washington, and Weld. Marcia has lived in Colorado for 38 years and has worked for the Alzheimer’s Association for 2 years. She has a M.Div. from the Iliff School of Theology and is taking graduate courses in Gerontology from UNC.

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