Ten early signs of Alzheimer's disease

Talk to your healthcare provider if you or someone you know has these symptoms.

November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. We hear Alzheimer’s Disease mentioned often in the media, so many of us may know of someone suffering from the disease. Often what we think of as Alzheimer’s is actually another form of dementia. The Alzheimer’s Association provides these early signs and symptoms to identify Alzheimer’s:

  1. Memory loss. We all suffer memory loss at one time or another, but in this case it’s forgetting information that was recently obtained. Other signs might be asking the same questions over and over, relying on memory aids or family members for reminders of things they used to be able to handle on their own.
  2. Difficulty in planning things or in solving problems. This may show up as an inability to follow a recipe or record expenses in a checkbook register. Having a hard time concentrating on tasks might be another sign.
  3. Completing common household tasks is more of a challenge. A person with Alzheimer’s might have difficulty with things that are part of daily life like using a DVR or a microwave. He or she might suddenly forget how to drive to a familiar destination.
  4. Becoming confused about dates and places. Holidays or seasons may be confusing for a person with Alzheimer’s. They may forget how they got to a place, or how to get home again.
  5. Vision may become an issue. For some people with Alzheimer’s this is evident if they have trouble seeing contrasts between colors or have difficulty reading. A person with Alzheimer’s might have trouble with depth perception.
  6. Problems with words. Speaking and/or writing might be more of a challenge because words that the person knew and had no trouble using in the past now cause difficulty. She might stop mid-sentence and not be able to find the words to continue. A person with Alzheimer’s might call something by the wrong name or repeat herself during a conversation.
  7. Misplacing items and being unable to retrace steps to find them. Someone with Alzheimer’s might put things in odd places. He or she might also blame others for taking items.
  8. Decreased ability to make decisions. Alzheimer’s might cause a person to make poor decisions or might make it difficult for him to make decisions. He might also pay less attention to his personal appearance.
  9. Withdrawal from usual activities. Someone with Alzheimer’s might have difficulty keeping up with his or her usual social or work life. A favorite hobby or pastime might go by the wayside because he or she is no longer able to participate in it. This withdrawal might be because the person is uncomfortable and doesn’t feel as though she fits in any more.
  10. Mood and personality changes. Confusion, depression, fear and anxiety are not uncommon in a person with Alzheimer’s. These emotions might become more pronounced when he or she is away from normal surroundings and routines. They can be easily upset.

The items on this list might describe many of us at one time or another. The difference for someone with Alzheimer’s is that he or she may have many of the symptoms, they develop slowly and they become increasingly more pronounced over time. Ultimately the symptoms interfere with someone’s ability to function day-to-day.

Michigan State University Extension suggests if you or someone you know are experiencing these symptoms, schedule an appointment with your doctor. Currently there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, but there are treatments that can slow down symptoms for longer periods of time. Earlier detection will ensure that you get the most from them. 

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