10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer's Disease
By Maureen Pratt
Alzheimer’s disease is a debilitating and progressive brain disease that causes changes in thinking, reasoning and behavior. An estimated 5.4 million people in the United States have the disease and, although it is more common in people age 65 and older, younger people in their 30s, 40s and 50s can develop it, too. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but today, there are more treatments and support available for Alzheimer’s patients and their families, particularly if the disease is detected and diagnosed in the early stages. The Alzheimer’s Association has developed a list of 10 warning signs that might indicate the presence of Alzheimer’s or another dementia. This list is not a substitute for a consultation with a medical professional, but it does provide helpful information that can then be discussed with your doctor:
Memory changes that disrupt daily life. Each of us will have memory lapses now and then. For example, we might forget a name, but remember it later on. But if memory lapses seem to recur and interfere with everyday activities, such as getting lost going to or from home, or asking the same question over and over, it could be a sign that the memory is impaired.
Challenges in planning or solving problems. Being overwhelmed in a multi-tasking world is not unusual. But, if familiar tasks, such as making a favorite recipe, become difficult to accomplish, this could be a sign that something health-related might be involved.
Difficulty completing familiar tasks. Programming the television remote can be a challenge for many of us. But if simple tasks such as this become impossible, it might be a good idea to consult a doctor. Favorite recipe, become difficult to accomplish, this could be a sign that something health-related might be involved.
Confusion with time or place. Occasionally, we might forget but then remember what day it is or when a particular activity will take place. Alzheimer’s disease can impact the part of the brain associated with orientation to time and place and make it consistently difficult, if not impossible, to remember things like appointments or dates. The person with Alzheimer’s might have an impaired sense of time and place, and make telephone calls at “odd” hours (very early morning, for example) or show up repeatedly at the wrong place for an appointment.
Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships. Many people have vision problems related to conditions such as glaucoma or cataracts. Vision problems related to Alzheimer’s include having difficulty reading and understanding what is written, and judging distance. Some people with Alzheimer’s disease might pass by a mirror and think that the person reflected there is someone else, of they might have trouble reading the face of a clock. A medical professional is best qualified to evaluate these or other vision changes or problems.
New problems with words in speaking or writing. Depending on a variety of circumstances, many of us may have trouble finding the right word to say or, at times of greater stress, might be at a loss for words completely. For people with Alzheimer’s, everyday communication can be very difficult and might involve frequent repetition, inability to follow a conversation, skipping from one subject to another without a common thread, and misspeaking or using the wrong word to describe an ordinary object.
Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps. We’ve all lost our keys, (perhaps even more than once!) The person with Alzheimer’s is more likely to frequently forget where he or she put something, and might even accuse someone else of stealing the “lost” object. Often, when the lost object is found the person with Alzheimer’s will not remember putting it there in the first place.
Decreased or poor judgment. Alzheimer’s disease can affect the areas of the brain associated with decision-making and judgment. Someone with Alzheimer’s might be more apt to give money to strangers, for example, telemarketers or door-to-door solicitors, or he or she might stop tending to personal hygiene and cleanliness.
Withdrawal from work or social activities. Each of us, at some point in our lives, will want to retreat from a busy or stressful situation. People with Alzheimer’s disease might start to withdraw even from activities that they love, such as hobbies or sports. They might be afraid of the changes happening to them, and withdraw from social situations because of this fear. They might forget details about something they used to like to do, and they might not be able to remember how to play a favorite game.
Changes in mood and personality. External changes can bring on stress and irritation. Mood and personality changes in people with Alzheimer’s disease include confusion, suspicion, depression, fear, or anxiety, especially if these are not typical for the person under ordinary circumstances.. People with Alzheimer’s also might become agitated if they move out of their comfort zone, and they might begin to emphasize their desire to feel safe.
The Alzheimer’s Association recommends consulting a physician if you have questions about any of these warning signs. For more information, go to alz.com or call the ALZ 24-hour Helpline at 800-272-3900.