An overview of Alzheimer’s warning signs

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By Jim Herlihy | Alzheimer’s Association

Family members and friends may not have seen one another for months or longer due to COVID distancing. When they do gather, the signs of memory loss or behavioral change may become obvious.

Changes in memory or behavior that seem gradual to those in daily contact can appear as abrupt declines in cognition to out-of-town visitors. 

The Alzheimer’s Association has developed a helpful checklist of 10 signs to aid in the early detection of Alzheimer’s. Why is early detection important? Without it, the ones we love may wait too long to make necessary lifestyle changes that are important to ensure that all medical care options are explored, ranging from medications to research. Other considerations include personal safety as well as quality of care, and to make necessary financial and estate planning adjustments.

Here is a brief overview of the 10 signs:

1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life. A typical age-related memory change is occasionally forgetting names or appointments but remembering them later. A common sign of Alzheimer’s disease, especially in the early stages, is forgetting recently learned information. The increasing need to rely on memory aids (reminder notes, electronic devices) or family members for things that one previously handled on their own is a sign.

2. Challenges in planning or solving problems. Making occasional errors, such as checkbook balancing, is not uncommon. If a person experiences changes in the ability to follow a plan or work with numbers, or has difficulty concentrating and completing a task, that may be a concern.

3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks. People with Alzheimer’s often find it hard to complete daily tasks. They may have trouble driving to a familiar location, managing a budget or remembering the rules of a familiar game.

4. Confusion with time or place. Losing track of dates, seasons and the passage of time is another indication. Sometimes people with Alzheimer’s can forget where they are or how they got there.

5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships. For some individuals, vision problems can be a sign of Alzheimer’s. They may have difficulty reading, judging distance and determining color or contrast, which may cause problems with driving.

6. New problems with words in speaking or writing. People with Alzheimer’s may have trouble following or joining a conversation. They may struggle with vocabulary, have problems finding the right word or call things by the wrong name (such as calling a “watch” a “hand clock”).

7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps. Putting things in unusual places and being unable to find them. Sometimes, they may accuse others of stealing — with more frequency over time.

8. Decreased or poor judgment. People with Alzheimer’s may use poor judgment when dealing with money, giving large amounts to telemarketers. They may also pay less attention to grooming and personal cleanliness.

9. Withdrawal from work or social activities. Some individuals may avoid being social because of changes they’re experiencing, removing themselves from work projects, hobbies and sports. 

10. Changes in mood and personality. Increased incidences of confusion, suspicion, depression, fear or anxiety can be a sign. Individuals can become more easily upset at home, work, with friends or in places where they are out of their comfort zone. 

If you or someone you care about is experiencing any of the 10 warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease, please contact the Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 bilingual Helpline at (800) 272-3900 for more information (with translation services offered in more than 200 languages and dialects) or go to www.alz.org. The Helpline is staffed by trained professionals and offered at no charge.

Alzheimer’s Association

The Alzheimer’s Association is the premier source of information and support for the more than 6.2 million people in the United States with Alzheimer’s disease, their families and caregivers. The Alzheimer’s Association offers education, counseling, support groups and a 24-hour helpline at no charge to families. 

In addition, contributions help fund advancements in research to prevent, treat and eventually conquer this disease. The Alzheimer’s Association advocates for those living with Alzheimer’s and their families on related legislative issues, and with health and long-term care providers. For information, call the Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 bilingual Helpline at (800) 272-3900 or visit www.alz.org.