Know the 10 signs: an Alzheimer’s checklist

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By Jim Herlihy | Alzheimer’s Association

As we age, it is tempting to attribute the gradual changes our bodies go through — including changes in memory — to normal aging. There are some changes we should be more attentive to, including memory lapses that begin to affect our quality of life.

The Alzheimer’s Association developed a checklist of 10 signs to aid in the early detection of Alzheimer’s. Why is early detection important? Without it, those we love may delay necessary lifestyle changes and exploring medical care options, ranging from medications to research. Other considerations include personal safety, quality of care, and making necessary financial and estate planning adjustments.

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. 

2. 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. 

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships. For some, 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.

8. 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”).

9. Decreased or poor judgment. People with Alzheimer’s may use poor judgment when dealing with money. They may also pay less attention to grooming and personal cleanliness.

10. Withdrawal from work or social activities. Some individuals avoid being social because of changes they’re experiencing, withdrawing from work projects, hobbies and sports. 

If you or someone you care about is experiencing any of these warning signs, we encourage you to schedule an examination with your family physician. Or, call the free Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 helpline at (800) 272-3900 or go to www.alz.org.