The Alzheimer’s Assoc. has created this list of warning signs for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Every individual may experience one or more of these in different degrees, and they may not necessarily indicate dementia.
Still, if you recognize one or more warning signs in yourself or a loved one, it’s a good idea to see a doctor. Early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or other disorders causing dementia is an important step toward getting appropriate treatment, care, and support services.
Memory changes that disrupt daily life. One of the most common signs of Alzheimer’s, especially in the early stages, is forgetting recently learned information. Others include forgetting important dates or events, asking for the same information over and over, or relying on memory aids (reminder notes, electronic devices, etc.) or family members for things they used to handle on their own.
What’s typical? Sometimes forgetting names or appointments, but remembering them later.
Challenges in planning or solving problems. Some people may experience changes in their ability to develop and follow a plan or work with numbers. They may have trouble following a familiar recipe or keeping track of monthly bills. They may have difficulty concentrating and take much longer to do things than they did before.
What’s typical? Making occasional errors when balancing a checkbook.
Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work, or at leisure. People with Alzheimer’s often find it hard to complete daily tasks. Sometimes, people may have trouble driving to a familiar location, managing a budget at work, or remembering the rules of a favorite game.
What’s typical? Occasionally needing help to use the settings on a microwave or to record a television show.
Confusion with time or place. People with Alzheimer’s can lose track of dates, seasons, and the passage of time. They may have trouble understanding something if it is not happening immediately. Sometimes they may forget where they are or how they got there.
What’s typical? Getting confused about the day of the week but figuring it out later.
Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships. For some people, having vision problems is a sign of Alzheimer’s. They may have difficulty reading, judging distance, or determining color or contrast. In terms of perception, they may pass a mirror and think someone else is in the room, not realizing they are the person in the mirror.
What’s typical? Vision changes related to cataracts.
New problems with words in speaking or writing. People with Alzheimer’s may have trouble following or joining a conversation. They may stop in the middle of a conversation and have no idea how to continue, or they may repeat themselves. They may struggle with vocabulary, have problems finding the right word, or call things by the wrong name (e.g., calling a watch a ’hand-clock’).
What’s typical? Sometimes having trouble finding the right word.
Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps. A person with Alzheimer’s disease may put things in unusual places. They may lose things and be unable to go back over their steps to find them again. Sometimes, they may accuse others of stealing. This may occur more frequently over time.
What’s typical? Misplacing things from time to time, such as a pair of glasses or the remote control.
Decreased or poor judgment. People with Alzheimer’s may experience changes in judgment or decision making. For example, they may use poor judgment when dealing with money, giving large amounts to telemarketers. They may pay less attention to grooming or keeping themselves clean.
What’s typical? Making a bad decision once in a while.
Withdrawal from work or social activities. A person with Alzheimer’s may start to remove themselves from hobbies, social activities, work projects, or sports. They may have trouble keeping up with a favorite sports team or remembering how to complete a favorite hobby. They may also avoid being social because of the changes they have experienced.
What’s typical? Sometimes feeling weary of work, family, and social obligations.
Changes in mood and personality. The mood and personality of someone with Alzheimer’s can change. They can become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful, or anxious. They may be easily upset at home, at work, with friends, or in places where they are out of their comfort zone.
What’s typical? Developing very specific ways of doing things and becoming irritable when a routine is disrupted.
This article was prepared by the Alzheimer’s Assoc.