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Early Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s

What to Look For

Early Detection Matters

Review this checklist of early warning signs and present it to your loved one’s doctor or care provider. This isn’t a substitute for a medical consultation but is a step in getting the appropriate care for a loved one in the early stages of memory issues.

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1. Memory loss that is disrupting daily life

A common sign of Alzheimer’s in its early stages is forgetting recently learned information. Other signs included forgetting important dates, asking for the same information over and over, relying on memory aides (ex. notes, electronic devices), or asking family members for assistance with things they used to handle on their own. It’s typical for an individual to forget a name or date but recall it later.

2. Problem-solving and planning challenges 

Individuals may experience a change in their ability to develop or follow a plan, work with numbers, follow a recipe, or keep track of bills. They may experience difficulty concentrating or take much longer to do the things they once did. It’s typical for occasional errors to occur when executing a plan or performing activities like balancing a checkbook.

3. Difficulty with accomplishing familiar tasks 

Individuals with Alzheimer’s can find it difficult to accomplish their daily tasks. This could include trouble driving to a familiar location, managing their budget, or remembering the words to their favorite song. It’s typical to need assistance with using an electronic device or recording a tv show.

4. Confusion with time and place 

Individuals with Alzheimer’s have trouble with tracking seasons or the passage of time. They can struggle with understanding if something doesn’t occur immediately or forgetting where they are and how they got there. It’s typical to get confused about the date or day but recall it later.

5. Difficulty with visual images and spatial relationships 

Individuals with Alzheimer’s may have vision problems, difficulty reading, judging distance, or determining color contrast. In terms of perception, they may have trouble recognizing themselves in a reflection or believe it is someone else. It’s typical to have vision changes due to cataracts.

6. New issues with speaking or writing 

Individuals with Alzheimer’s can have trouble following or joining a conversation. They may stop in the middle of a conversation and struggle to continue or repeat themselves. They may struggle with vocabulary, and have problems finding the right word, or call things by the wrong name (e.g., calling a watch a “hand clock”). It’s typical to occasionally struggle with finding the right word.

7. Misplacing items and trouble with retracing steps  

An individual with Alzheimer’s may place items in unusual places. They may lose items and be unable to go back over their steps to find them again. Sometimes, they may accuse others of stealing. This may occur more frequently over time. It’s typical to misplace items like glasses or a remote from time to time.

8. Decreased or poor judgment 

Individuals with Alzheimer’s may experience changes in judgment or decision-making. They may use poor judgment when dealing with money, like giving large amounts to telemarketers. They may pay less attention to grooming or keeping themselves clean. It’s typical to make a bad decision once in a while.

9. Withdrawal from social activities 

Individuals with Alzheimer’s may start to withdraw from hobbies, social activities, work projects, or sports. They may have trouble following their favorite sports team or remembering how to complete a favorite hobby. They may also avoid being social because of the changes they have experienced. It’s typical to be tired from work, activity, or events.

10. Changes in mood and personality 

The mood and personalities of individuals with Alzheimer’s can change. They become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful, or anxious. They may be easily upset at home, at work, with friends, or in places where they are out of their comfort zone. It’s typical to have a preferred method of doing something or feel irritated with a daily routine is disrupted.