As people age, they change cognitively and behaviorally. If you are visiting this page because you fear a loved one might be suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia, remember that most seniors will not remember or act with the same clarity they did as younger people. If they occasionally forget the name of a grand-nephew, for instance, this can be considered normal aging-related behavior and you probably shouldn’t worry. Alzheimer’s, however, is a degenerative disease that impacts communication, intellectual pursuits, cognitive reasoning, social interactions, and even temperament. The list below should help differentiate between signs of normal aging and signs of Alzheimer’s. A lengthier but similar list can be found on health.com. These lists are not designed to definitively diagnose an individual; you should absolutely consult a medical professional if you are concerned about age-related changes in a loved one.
Early-onset Alzheimer’s can be passed down genetically. It has similar symptoms to the ones listed below, but occurs in individuals younger than 65 years old. If early-onset is a concern for you, you can learn more on The Mayo Clinic’s website and from this downloadable pamphlet from The Alzheimer’s Association.
Individuals and families of individuals affected by dementia, whether early-onset or not, should address the issue immediately by seeking out reliable information and quality health care. While there is currently no known cure for this debilitating disease, there are many preventative measures, clinical trials, and coping mechanisms your health care provider can provide.
10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s (excerpted from the Alzheimer’s Association):
- Memory loss disrupting daily life
Memory issues, especially of things learned recently, is one of the most common signs of Alzheimer’s. Pay attention to whether a person forgets events or important dates, asks for the same information repeatedly, or must rely on memory aids (like notes) or other people to recall things they previously dealt with themselves.
Normal age-related change: Occasionally forgetting things like names or events, but recalling them later.
- Trouble planning or solving problems
Difficulties can include developing and/or following a plan, or working with numbers. Examples include staying on top of monthly bills, or following a recipe that was not problematic in the past. Concentration might become an issue, and tasks might take longer than before.
Normal age-related change: Sometimes making mistakes while balancing a checkbook.
- Trouble performing familiar tasks, at home or work
Regular tasks become difficult for people suffering from Alzheimer’s. Driving to familiar places, keeping track of things at work, or remembering how to play a familiar game might all indicate the onset of dementia.
Normal age-related change: Sometimes needing help with tasks like setting a clock or recording something on TV.
- Confusion over time or place
Dates, seasons, and the passing of time can become confusing to people with Alzheimer’s. A person might lose the ability to fully comprehend time outside the present moment, or might forget where they are and how they got there.
Normal age-related change: Forgetting which day of the week it is, but managing to figure it out later.
- Difficulty recognizing visual images or special relationships
Problems with vision might be a sign of Alzheimer’s. Reading, determining distance, and differentiating between colors and contrast might all become issues. Someone with Alzheimer’s might not recognize themselves in the mirror, but assume it is someone else in the room.
Normal age-related change: Vision changes related to cataracts.
- Issues with language, spoken or written
People with Alzheimer’s can develop problems with joining and conducting conversations. Signs of Alzheimer’s include stopping in the middle of conversations or repeating the same thing multiple times. People might have trouble with vocabulary and begin substituting words incorrectly (for example, calling a toothbrush “mouth cleaner.”)
Normal age-related change: Momentarily forgetting the correct word on occasion.
- Misplacement of objects
Someone with Alzheimer’s may begin putting things in strange places; when they lose things, they may be unable to retrace their steps in order to find an object. This issue can happen more frequently as time passes.
Normal age-related change: Once in a while, losing things like glasses or a remote.
- A decrease in good judgment
Judgment and good decision-making can change with the progression of Alzheimer’s. People with dementia might make poor decisions with money, for example, and become susceptible to telemarketers. They may stop taking care of themselves with regards to hygiene.
Normal age-related change: Making bad decisions on occasion.
- Social withdrawal
People suffering from Alzheimer’s might stop spending time on hobbies and withdraw from socializing and working. Decreased ability to do things like follow a sports team or engage in a hobby might result in discomfort with social situations.
Normal age-related change: Occasionally feeling tired of social, family, or work obligations.
- Mood or personality change
Alzheimer’s can result in mood or personality change. New emotions, such as confusion, anxiety, fear, anger, suspicion, or depression, might arise. A person might become easily upset, either at work or at home, due to discomfort.
Normal age-related change: Becoming irritable when an established routine is disrupted.
For more information, please visit www.alz.org
Other Sources Include: