Brought to you by the Alzheimer’s Association
Too many people think the early signs of Alzheimer’s disease are a normal part of aging. While we know there are age-related changes that happen in the brain, these symptoms may signal changes that aren’t normal. When you begin to recognize these changes in your loved one’s behavior, that first conversation can be difficult. But, staying ahead of Alzheimer’s and getting an early diagnosis allows your loved one to take advantage of early treatment opportunities, as well as allows for you and your loved one to better prepare for your new normal and the costs associated with treatment. The Alzheimer’s Association has provided these early signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s or other dementia. If one of your loved ones begins to display any of these signs, it’s time to talk about it. Having these tough conversations is the best way to ensure an easier future, together.
Memory loss that disrupts daily life
One of the most common signs of Alzheimer’s disease, especially in the early stage, is forgetting recently learned information. Others include forgetting important dates or events, asking the same questions over and over, and increasingly needing to rely on memory aids (e.g., reminder notes or electronic devices) or family members for things they used to handle on their own.
Challenges in planning or solving problems
Some people living with Alzheimer’s may experience changes in their ability to develop and follow a plan or work with numbers. They may have trouble following a familiar recipe or keeping track of monthly bills. They may have difficulty concentrating and take much longer to do things than they did before.
Difficulty completing familiar tasks
People with Alzheimer’s often find it hard to complete daily tasks. Sometimes they may have trouble driving to a familiar location, organizing a grocery list or remembering the rules of a favorite game.
Confusion with time or place
People living with Alzheimer’s can lose track of dates, seasons, and the passage of time. They may have trouble understanding something if it is not happening immediately. Sometimes they may forget where they are or how they got there.
Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
For some people, having vision problems is a sign of Alzheimer’s. This may lead to difficulty with balance or trouble reading. They may also have problems judging distance and determining color or contrast, causing issues with driving.
New problems with words in speaking or writing
People living with Alzheimer’s may have trouble following or joining a conversation. They may stop in the middle of a conversation and have no idea how to continue or they may repeat themselves. They may struggle with vocabulary, have trouble naming a familiar object or use the wrong name (e.g., calling a “watch” a “hand-clock”).
Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
A person living with Alzheimer’s disease may put things in unusual places. They may lose things and be unable to go back over their steps to find them again. He or she may accuse others of stealing, especially as the disease progresses.
Decreased or poor judgment
Individuals may experience changes in judgment or decision-making. For example, they may use poor judgment when dealing with money or pay less attention to grooming or keeping themselves clean.
Withdrawal from work or social activities
A person living with Alzheimer’s disease may experience changes in the ability to hold or follow a conversation. As a result, he or she may withdraw from hobbies, social activities or other engagements. They may have trouble keeping up with a favorite team or activity.
Changes in mood and personality
Individuals living with Alzheimer’s may experience mood and personality changes. They can become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful, or anxious. They may be easily upset at home, with friends, or when out of their comfort zone.
If someone you love starts displaying one or multiple of these behaviors, have a conversation with your loved one about going to the doctor. These are important conversations to have and while they may be tough, they can make a huge difference in your loved one’s quality of life.
The Alzheimer’s Association has resources to help, including tools and resources to help families recognize early warning signs of Alzheimer’s, tips for facilitating conversations about cognition, benefits of early detection and diagnosis, and a discussion guide for use with doctors and health providers. To get started, visit ALZ.org/TimeToTalk. Having a conversation early offers the best opportunity to get an accurate diagnosis, begin an appropriate treatment plan, and discuss plans for managing the future so your loved one can live their best life.