Early Signs of Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common form of dementia and is typically seen in older adults. Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that starts slowly with mild forgetfulness and confusion and progresses over time to include memory loss, severely impaired cognitive abilities, and in some cases, loss of life-sustaining bodily functions when essential parts of the brain are affected.

Forgetting where you left your keys is normal, especially in our busy and distracted lives. But knowing the way memory becomes impaired, and early signs and symptoms to watch out for, can help you or your loved ones get proper care sooner, which may slow the progression of this disease.

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Your loved one can never seem to stick to a plan and doesn't follow directions well. Could this be an early warning sign?


Some people aren't good at planning what they are going to do, but there's a difference between being happy-go-lucky and not being able to take logical steps. If your loved one simply carries out their day bouncing from here to there, and everything seems to get done without much challenge, there likely isn't anything to worry about. If, however, they seem to be challenged by small tasks, forget what they were going to do next, or can't keep track of things like their monthly bills, you may have a reason for concern.


Are there any visual problems associated with Alzheimer's?


Some aging adults experience vision impairment through the progression of Alzheimer's, due to the areas of the brain that are affected by the disease. Some people will have blurrier vision, and some people will experience an inability to understand distance and depth.


What kind of confusion should alert me to a potential problem?


Forgetting where you are, or not understanding the current time period you are in, is a clear sign of Alzheimer's. It's never normal to forget where you are, nor is it normal to "forget" the passage of time. Equally, if you or a loved one sometimes "wake up" and have a clarity to the place and time after feeling foggy or confused, this is a reason to see your doctor as soon as possible.


Should I be concerned about using the wrong words when I write or speak?


Naturally, during conversation or while typing an email, you may misspell a word or choose a wrong word here and there. In the case of Alzheimer's, the effect is much more pronounced, where you would choose a completely incorrect word (bubble instead of bottle, for instance, or windmill instead of ceiling fan) and believe that it's the correct word. This can be followed by confusion or an inability to finish the thought or sentence.


What if a person's behavior changes?


This can be very gradual, but it's one of the clearer signs to a person close to someone who is beginning to show symptoms of Alzheimer's. Changes in mood, personality, or behavior are always warning signs, and while it may or may not be Alzheimer's, it's worth it to get a professional opinion to rule out any possible issues.


Is misplacing common items something I should be concerned with?


Not all instances of misplaced items are an early sign of Alzheimer's. If you've misplaced something that you don't use often, or if you misplace something and can retrace your steps without difficulty, you have no reason to worry. This is normal. If, however, you are unable to retrace your steps, or you are convinced you're being stolen from and later find your item in an unusual place, then you may want to have a conversation with your doctor.


Is having trouble with daily tasks just a normal sign of aging?


Losing a little bit of strength and dexterity can be expected through the decades. It's fairly common to see folks have issues with mobility as the years catch up with them, and there is little that can be done to avoid this. However, if someone seems to have significant difficulty with simpler daily tasks that are familiar to them at home, at work, or in a favorite hobby, this may be a sign of cognitive decline seen in Alzheimer's.


Is being occasionally forgetful a sign of Alzheimer's?


Sometimes forgetting where you left your wallet, or forgetting a name, is an entirely normal part of life, and isn't a cause for concern. When memory loss becomes more pronounced and frequent, that's when you should pay attention to it as an early warning sign. One of the most notable ways memory loss occurs is in recently learned information, so if things that happened earlier in life remain, but the last few days, weeks, or months are blurrier, or you have to ask for the same information several times, it may be a chance to schedule an appointment with a doctor.


What if I have trouble making decisions?


Choosing chocolate or vanilla can be a tough choice any day. The kind of decision-making that is impaired in Alzheimer's is more of a judgement-based type of decision. They may not realize they are being taken advantage of by scammers or telemarketers, and may not make smart decisions about their own welfare.


Is withdrawing from friends and hobbies normal?


Even aging adults need time with friends, and this is also true of their beloved hobbies that they may now have more time to enjoy. When an older adult begins withdrawing from their normal social activities, or they seem not to enjoy the hobbies they once did, this may be a sign to watch out for. In some cases, such as joint pain, it can be normal to set aside more active or demanding activities, but the loss of interest in enjoyable pastimes is a call for attention.

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