Alzheimer's disease is a progressive disorder that causes brain cells to degenerate and die. It's the most common cause of dementia — a continuous decline in thinking, behavioral, and social skills that disrupts a person's ability to function independently. Recognizing the early warning signs of Alzheimer's can lead to earlier diagnosis, allowing for better planning and, in some cases, a better prognosis.
If you or a loved one are experiencing any of the following symptoms, it's important to speak with a healthcare provider. They may recommend seeing a specialist, such as a neuropsychologist or a neurologist, for further evaluation.
1. Difficulty Performing Daily Tasks
One of the first signs of Alzheimer's can be difficulty performing familiar tasks. This could include keeping track of bills, following a recipe while cooking, or remembering the rules of a favorite game. Tasks that require sequential steps can become challenging as the disease progresses.
Repetition is a common early symptom of Alzheimer's. This could involve asking the same question or telling the same story over and over again. It's not just conversation, either. Repetitive behaviors like pacing or continually organizing items can also be a sign.
3. Struggling to Find the Right Word
Language problems are another early symptom of Alzheimer's. This could involve struggling to find the right word, forgetting simple words, or substituting unusual words in conversation.
4. Getting Lost
People with Alzheimer's may start to have difficulty with spatial awareness. They may get lost easily, even in familiar places, or have trouble understanding where they are.
5. Personality Changes
Changes in mood or personality can also be a sign of Alzheimer's. Someone with the disease may become more anxious, confused, afraid, or paranoid. They may also become more irritable or depressed.
6. Confusion About Time and Place
People with Alzheimer's often lose track of dates, seasons, and the passage of time. They may have trouble understanding something if it isn't happening immediately. Sometimes they may forget where they are or how they got there.
7. Misplacing Items
Everyone misplaces things from time to time. However, people with Alzheimer's often put things in unusual places. They may lose things and be unable to go back over their steps to find them again.
8. Trouble with Hygiene
Personal hygiene can suffer as Alzheimer's progresses. This can include neglecting to bathe, wearing the same clothes over and over again, or forgetting to brush teeth.
9. Trouble with Handling Money
People with Alzheimer's may experience difficulty working with numbers, including handling money. They may struggle to keep track of bills and may pay them more than once or not at all.
10. Loss of Interest
A person with Alzheimer's may start to lose interest in activities they once enjoyed, including hobbies, social events, and even spending time with family and friends. They may become very passive, sitting in front of the TV for hours, sleeping more than usual, or not wanting to do usual activities.
11. Forgetting Old Memories
While forgetting recent happenings is a common symptom, people with Alzheimer's may also forget significant life events or confuse the identities of close family members.
Remember, everyone has occasional memory lapses. It's normal to forget where you put your keys or the name of an acquaintance. But the memory loss associated with Alzheimer's disease persists and worsens, affecting the ability to function at work or at home. If you or a loved one are experiencing these symptoms, it's important to seek medical advice. Early diagnosis can help manage the symptoms and improve quality of life.