The 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease

The Alzheimer’s Association presents the following as warnings signs of Alzheimer’s disease:

  1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life
  2. Challenges in planning or solving problems
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, work, or leisure
  4. Confusion with time or place
  5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
  6. New problems with words in speaking or writing
  7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
  8. Decreased or poor judgment
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities
  10. Changes in mood and personality

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As we age, our organs do not perform as before.  The brain is no exception.  Some natural cognitive decline is natural.  When presenting the early warning signs, it is important that we put each warning sign in its proper context.

It is also important to remember that each person has their own baseline.  We do not all have the same skills or personalities.  Life experiences and family relationships also impact how we develop as individuals.  In order to receive a proper diagnosis, a physician must take the time to fully understand the personality and life experiences.  Other factors such as  stress, depression, and vitamin deficiencies might be to blame.

  1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life
    • Forgetting the names of new classroom of students is normal.  This is different from being unable to remember the name of your spouse or children (if you have a few!).  Typically we forget names, but are able to remember them on our own later.
  2. Challenges in planning or solving problems
    • This is relative to your problem solving skills when you were younger.  If these skills were never strong, they will also be weak as an older adult.
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, work, or leisure.
    • The key word is “familiar”.  If you have never been good at folding clothes, this is not a familiar task, and therefore there is no cause for concern that you still cannot do it well.
  4. Confusion with time or place
    • It is normal to write the year wrong in January or to think it is Tuesday when it is in fact Wednesday.  Life stresses causing us to loose track of the passage of small periods of time.  However, it is not normal to perceive yourself as being in the opposite season or many years in the past.
  5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
    • Vision generally worsens as we age.  Older adults aged 75+ typically have peripheral vision of about 45 degrees in each direction.  Older adults living with dementia will develop tunnel vision.  Eventually this vision becomes binocular and then monocular.  They will also have issues gauging distance while driving or recognizing the depth perception of items in a room.
  6. New problems with words in speaking or writing
    • Some older adults may have a stutter or become timid in large group settings.  Their energy level or stress can also impact their ability to speak well.  We also all forget the names of items, especially words that we use infrequently.  It is not normal to forget words that are common to our every day life.  If we forget them, we may remember them by mentioning other related words.  If we think of the common word after this activity, this may be a sign of a developing cognitive impairment.
  7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
    • We all loose our keys, unless we are very disciplined!  We may leave them in our pockets, put them on the counter, or periodically forget to even bring them out of the car.  These are all normal acts.  What is abnormal is putting keys in the fruit bowl, refrigerator, or give them to a friendly stranger.
  8. Decreased or poor judgment
    • Related to the above, poor judgment might be falling victim to a sweepstakes scam or donating more than you can afford.  We all have different levels of judgment, but typically this decline is hard to uncover in family and friends.
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities
    • This is especially relevant for extroverts.  If a person finds themselves suddenly lost in a conversation this could be an issue.  However, we should consider other issues such as depression or exhaustion.  Introverts may avoid social activities, but enjoy gatherings among family and a few friends.  If these behaviors change over the course of months or years, this might be cause for concern.
  10. Changes in mood and personality
    • These are differences that arise over the course of the medium and long term.  Keep in mind that life experiences can also permanently impact one’s personality.  It is important to take the time to understand if traumatic incidents are to blame.

 

 

 

 

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