Memory loss may be part of normal aging, but it can also be a sign of something more serious. Alzheimer’s and dementia include memory loss and other symptoms, so it’s important to be aware of changes in your loved ones memory, behaviors, and abilities. While Alzheimer’s disease may be hard to detect early on, there are several things that family members and caregivers can look for to help medical professionals make an early diagnosis and improve treatment. Let's take a look at some of the signs below.
10 Early Signs of Alzheimer's
It's important to remember that Alzheimer's is a type of dementia and that it presents its own unique set of symptoms that set it apart from the dementia diagnosis. Below are a few of the signs of Alzheimer's disease along with what sets it apart from normal aging signs.
Memory loss is one of the most common signs of Alzheimer's disease. However, it is also part of regular aging. Usually, the memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease will disrupt daily life for your loved one. For example, consistently asking for things to be repeated could be a warning sign. Compare this to occasionally forgetting an appointment or name, but remembering it later. Seniors who experience normal aging may occasionally forget something, while a senior with Alzheimer’s or dementia may find this forgetfulness to be a daily occurrence.
Seniors with Alzheimer’s disease may also have difficulties solving everyday problems. For example, this could include changes in the ability to work with numbers and details, such as balancing a checkbook or following a familiar recipe. Compare this to occasionally making a mathematical error in a checkbook.
Difficulty with Familiar Tasks
Alzheimer’s disease may also make it difficult for a loved one to complete regular and familiar tasks, like navigating the grocery store. They might also find it hard to remember the rules of a favorite game or drive to familiar locations. Compare that to needing help to record a TV show once in a while.
Confusion about Time & Place
Losing track of dates, the season or passage of time can happen with Alzheimer's patients. They may forget how they got to where they are. They might also lose track of the date or events they have coming up, like birthdays or anniversaries. Seniors who experience regular aging, however, may get confused about what day of the week it is but could figure it out later.
Problems Speaking or Writing
With Alzheimer's, it can be difficult for seniors to join in or keep up with a conversation. They may repeat themselves, or just not be able to follow the conversation. You might notice that they struggle to complete a thought or to understand words used in a conversation. Compare this to regular aging in which senior sometimes might not be able to find the right word.
A person with Alzheimer's may lose things because they simply forgot where they put them. Sometimes they will put things in strange places and not be able to retrace their steps. For example, putting their glasses in the freezer. They may accuse others of stealing when they can’t find what they are looking for. Compare this behavior to occasionally misplacing something but being able to retrace your steps to find it.
In addition to changes in problem-solving skills, seniors with Alzheimer’s may make poor decisions in general and have a lack of judgement. For example, they might fall more easily into money scams or even just spend a lot of money frivolously. They might also stop taking care of their hygiene and grooming or even stop taking care of a beloved pet. Contrast to the fact that most of us make a bad decision now and then, but we learn from them and can often correct our mistakes.
Mood & Personality Changes
Becoming easily upset, anxious, afraid when out of their comfort zone could be a sign that your loved one is developing Alzheimer’s disease. You might notice that your loved one doesn’t react the way that you expect or that they used to in various situations. Someone who was once very kind and gentle can turn aggressive and even violent due to changes in the brain caused by Alzheimer’s disease. Compare that to someone who has developed specific ways to do things and becomes irritable when their routine is disrupted.
Trouble Understanding Images
Having vision problems is a sign of Alzheimer's for some people. People may have difficulty reading, as well as determining color, distance, and depth. This can cause them to have trouble understanding visual images and pictures. These difficulties can also lead to issues with driving and depth perception and can result in loss of license.
Seniors with Alzheimer’s disease may get lost or confused in familiar places or not recall how to use a familiar object. Not remembering where they are or how they arrived there also falls into this category. Generally, they may feel disoriented and not be able to recall recent events, which could also cause frustration or anxiety. Even if you try to recount what happened, they may struggle to remember or accept that chain of events. With normal aging, a senior may feel disoriented occasionally, but they can usually retrace their steps and remember.
What To Do
If you notice several of these symptoms in your loved one, it may be a sign that they are developing Alzheimer’s disease. However, they could also be signs of something else. If you are concerned that you or someone you love maybe experiencing symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, it is always best to schedule an appointment to discuss the situation with your doctor. There are many causes of dementia, including some that are reversible. Symptoms could be the result of something as simple as a vitamin deficiency or urinary tract infection. But they could also point to a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. Either way, it is important to seek a medical opinion to determine next steps.
At Caring Senior Service, we are always ready to help seniors and their families by providing professional advice on non-medical care and services. For more information on how to identify signs of Alzheimer's, download our Alzheimer's and dementia guide.