Early detection is important for Alzheimer's disease, or related dementias. Treatments and lifestyle modifications may help to slow the disease and plans about the future can be made. Also, some symptoms may be due to reversible causes of dementia, such as metabolic imbalances, that can be treated and resolved. Here are 10 early signs of Alzheimer's that you should not ignore:
- Memory Loss: Occasional misplacing of items or forgetting to bring an item is a normal part of daily life. Memory loss that may indicate Alzheimer's is when a person forgets or mixes up events or appointments; repeats him or herself during conversation or repeats a question; forgets recent conversations; or is using more reminder notes or lists to try and keep things straight.
- Poor planning and problem solving: Alzheimer's can cause a person to have trouble planning ahead, resulting in mistakes. Examples include running out of medications, wearing the wrong clothing for the weather and paying the bills late. Difficulty solving problems can also occur and can pose a danger, as the person has trouble knowing what to do when unexpected factors arise. For instance, knowing what to do when a pan starts smoking, when there is sudden construction on the road when driving, or how to find the way in an area that is unfamiliar.
- Difficulty with everyday tasks: If you notice pills dropped on the ground or pill bottles that never run out, pans with burned spots, a refrigerator with moldy food, bills that are not being paid, and a negligence to one's appearance, the person may be experiencing dementia-related symptoms that make it difficult to perform daily tasks correctly, safely, and efficiently.
- Disorientation: This means the person may be mixed up to what day or month it is, or even the time of day. He or she may get lost even when in familiar malls or neighborhoods.
- Changes in visual perceptions: How the person sees and interprets the world changes with Alzheimer's disease. So the person may miss seeing a yield sign when driving, may have trouble recognizing a familiar friend or neighbor, or may not be able to find an item
- Trouble with words and conversation: The person with Alzheimer's may forget the name of an item, may struggle to find the right word in conversation, or may lose track of the thread of the conversation. He or she might also repeat things.
- Losing things: Misplacing items is normal but the person experiencing symptoms of Alzheimer's may put items in odd spots and not be able to retrace steps to find them. Examples include a tv remote in the refrigerator, the keys in the mailbox, and money stuffed under a cushion.
- Poor judgement: Early symptoms of Alzheimer's disease include lapses in judgement and difficulty with making decisions. For example, the person might overspend on items not needed, set the newspaper next to the open flame on the stove, or save old food in an attempt to save money. The person may go on a walk, but forget to put on a coat for the cold weather. Lapses in judgement can pose risks for the person, including starting fires, getting sick from poor food handling and storage, and accidents when driving.
- Staying at home more and losing connections with friends: Withdrawing from outside activities and friends can be a warning sign of Alzheimer's disease. Since outside life has so many more variables and encounters, the person may retreat to their home, where things are less confusing and more routine.
- Mood or personality changes: Changes in behavior are a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease. The person may be anxious, depressed, suspicious, and may have angry outbursts, that out of character from their norm. This is due to the trouble the person has with interpreting the world around them and knowing how to respond. For instance, the person may suspicious their things are being stolen but it is actually due to the person misplacing or hiding things and forgetting where they were put.
If you or someone in your family is experiencing any of these symptoms, seek care from a physician. Evaluating and addressing the symptoms early may help to ease the symptoms, slow the rate of progression of the disease, reduce the risks of accidents and self-neglect, give time to educate oneself about Alzheimer's disease and its general progression, and give time for planning for the future. Want more dementia care tips, delivered to your inbox? Click below.