According to the Alzheimer's Association, more than five million Americans are living with Alzheimer's disease. This number is only going to increase in the years to come, as people are living longer and the population is aging. It can be hard to watch an elderly loved one experience this disease, and even harder to go through it yourself. That's why it's so important to be aware of the signs of Alzheimer's and to get checked out if you think you or a loved one may be showing symptoms. In honor of Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, we’ve compiled a list of 10 signs of Alzheimer's to look out for.
1 - Memory Loss That Disrupts Daily Life
This is one of the most common early signs of Alzheimer's. Forgetting recently learned information, or having trouble remembering how to do things you've been doing your whole life could be a sign of Alzheimer's in its early stages. One may also forget important dates or events, or become heavily dependent on memory aids like reminder notes or the help of family members. If you notice a concerning amount of memory loss in yourself or a loved one, it is best to go see your primary care physician.
2 - Challenges in Planning or Solving ProblemsSomeone living with dementia might have trouble concentrating, or they may take a long time to do things they used to do with ease. Some signs that something could be wrong are:
- Getting lost in familiar places.
- Having trouble following conversations.
- Being unable to keep track of bills.
- New difficulty in following a plan or working with numbers.
Having trouble with problem-solving or critical thinking that used to come with ease is often a cause for concern.
3 - Withdrawal From Usual Activities
Having a lack of interest in your typical activities or in seeing the people you normally spend time with could be an early sign of dementia. For example, no longer following your favorite show or sport, or not wanting to spend time with grandchildren or friends are signs of apathy that could stem from dementia. If you notice yourself or a loved one withdrawing from activities and hobbies, it might be a sign that something is wrong.
4 - Difficulty Completing Familiar Tasks
People with Alzheimer’s often have trouble completing routine tasks. Forgetting how to make your favorite recipe or how to drive to a familiar location could be a sign of Alzheimer’s. It’s normal to forget things sometimes, but forgetting daily tasks that you have done all of your life is something you should mention to your physician.
5 - Confusion
Confusion and disorientation are common symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. This may include not knowing what season or year it is, now knowing where you are, or not understanding why or how you got there. This is often why people with Alzheimer’s believe they are younger than they are, as they are unaware of time passing. If you or a loved one are experiencing this symptom, you must be evaluated by your primary care doctor.
6 - Vision Problems and Spacial Awareness
For some people, vision problems and spatial awareness difficulties are a sign of Alzheimer’s. They may have trouble with:
These symptoms can make it challenging to do activities like driving, using the stairs, finding your way home, and reading. If you or a loved one are experiencing trouble with vision or spacial relationships, it’s best to visit your primary care provider.
- Judging distances correctly.
- Determining color and contrast.
- Recognizing familiar faces or objects.
- Interpreting images.
7 - Decrease in Communication Skills
Changes in written or verbal communication can be a warning sign of Alzheimer’s. Someone with the disease might have trouble following or joining a conversation, stop in the middle of a sentence and have no idea how to continue, or forget what they were talking about in the first place. If you or a loved one often struggle to write down your thoughts, can never seem to find the right word, or have a hard time expressing yourself, these can be signs of Alzheimer’s and you should be checked out by your primary health care provider.
8 - Personality and Mood Changes
If you have noticed shifts in a loved one’s mood and behavior over the last few months, it could be a sign that the brain is going through changes. Someone who was once easygoing may now consistently experience feelings like being anxious, depressed, or irritable. They may also become more withdrawn from friends and family. Extreme shifts in behavior are worth mentioning to your doctor to be evaluated for dementia.
9 - Poor Judgment
Individuals with Alzheimer’s may experience a decrease in judgment or decision making. You might notice you or a loved one are:
- Making poor decisions with money, like engaging in phone scams and giving money away.
- Not dressing appropriately for the weather.
- Paying less attention to grooming or bathing.
- Driving in an unsafe way.
The occasional lapse in judgment is fine, but if you notice a loved one frequently making questionable decisions, it may be time to visit a physician.
10 - Misplacing Things
People with Alzheimer's disease may put things in unusual spots. They may misplace items and be unable to retrace their steps to retrieve them. Looking for a misplaced item may cause frustration and confusion, and they might accuse others of thievery as the illness progresses. If you notice these behaviors in your loved one, they should be evaluated by their primary doctor.
If you or a loved one are showing any of these signs, it's important to see a physician right away to get the necessary help. Early detection is key to managing Alzheimer's disease, and there are treatments available that can help slow down the progression of the disease and improve the quality of life.
The first step in reaching out for help is to open up a discussion with your primary care provider. If you think something might be wrong, make an appointment with your primary doctor at Premier Medical Associates. Our team of physicians can offer you guidance and refer you to specialists to get you the best care possible.
Premier Medical Associates is an affiliate of the Allegheny Health Network and is the largest multi-specialty physician practice in the Greater Pittsburgh Area. Our highly experienced care team provides services like neurology and primary care for you and your loved one’s needs. If you would like more information, please follow up with your primary care physician.