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Would You Recognize the Early Signs of Alzheimer's?

Would You Recognize the Early Signs of Alzheimer's?

Nearly 6 million Americans of all ages are living with Alzheimer's dementia today. Worldwide, 50 million or more have Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

Few diagnoses are as devastating to patients and their families. Alzheimer’s is a degenerative brain disease and the most common form of dementia.

One of the keys to living with Alzheimer’s is to get a diagnosis and begin treatment. While medications can’t stop the disease, they can slow down some symptoms for a time. In addition, treating the symptoms of Alzheimer’s can provide people with comfort, dignity, and independence for a longer period of time and can encourage and assist their caregivers as well.

Would you recognize the early signs of Alzheimer’s? The Alzheimer’s Association has created this list to help you determine whether a loved one may have the disease:

10 Early Signs & Symptoms of Alzheimer’s

1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life – Forgetting recently learned information is one of the most common signs of Alzheimer’s disease, especially in the early stage. Others include forgetting important dates or events, asking for the same questions over and over and increasingly needing to rely on reminder notes or family members for things they used to handle on their own.

2. Challenges in planning or solving problems - Some people living with dementia 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. 

3. 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.

4. Confusion with time and 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.

5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships - For some people, vision problems can be 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.

6. 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").

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. 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.

It’s human nature to put off going to the doctor, especially when you suspect you might get bad news. But early detection can lead to a better quality of life for the patient. Get checked. Early detection matters.

To learn more, visit https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/alzheimers or https://www.alz.org/alzheimer_s_dementia.