Aging brings changes to your brain. Little slips in memory and perhaps not being as mentally agile as you once were are things to be expected… Much as we may not like it!
But when do you know something more serious is going on? If you start to forget things frequently, you may worry that you are on the road to Alzheimer’s.
Luckily, that’s probably not the case. There’s a big difference in the ‘aging brain’ and the gradual decline in memory, reasoning, and thinking skills that are the hallmarks of the brain disease known as Alzheimer’s.
Below are 11 early signs of Alzheimer’s that you should definitely pay attention to.
1. Disruptive Memory Loss
If your memory is disrupting your daily life, it could be an early sign of Alzheimer’s. This doesn’t include forgetting someone’s name or the day of an appointment…
Examples of this type of daily disruption would be asking the same question over and over because you cannot retain the answer, forgetting important dates or events, or needing to rely more and more on family members (or even memory aids) for things you used to handle on your own. Another example may be to forget a recent event or telephone conversation.
2. Poor Judgement
This symptom can actually precede memory loss. This will present as a clear pattern of actions and decisions that are blatantly inappropriate. It comes from a decline in the ability to consider all the factors that go into a decision, like looking at possible outcomes or processing abstract ideas over concrete ones. Signs of this symptom may include lapses in grooming or hygiene or carelessness with money. Also, an inability to safely determine physical ability or danger. Again, this symptom is defined as a regular, increasing pattern—forgetting to buy toilet paper or making the odd decision is just part of life.
3. Challenges Carrying Out Well-Known Tasks
The odd incidence of needing help with the remote or WIFI doesn’t mean you are getting dementia. However, with Alzheimer’s, it becomes harder for you to complete things you’ve done over and over before, like how to get to a familiar location. Other examples of this type of mental decline would be forgetting the rules to a game you’ve played for many years, or how to organize your grocery list or To-Dos.
4. Difficulty Solving Problems & Planning
You probably don’t need to worry if you merely make the occasional error with your financial management. Dementia will create a more defined and obvious change in your abilities to work with numbers or to develop and follow a plan. Concentration may become difficult. Tasks that were previously easy and fast to complete may take longer.
5. Difficulty with Verbal and Written Expression
Normal, age-related decline often includes stumbling to find the right word now and then. If you have Alzheimer’s, your ability to carry on or even follow a conversation will decrease. You may start to repeat yourself, forgetting what you’ve already said, or stop abruptly in the middle. Alzheimer’s offers an increasing challenge with vocabulary, like difficulty recalling the name of an object, or calling a book a newspaper, or a chair a ‘thing to sit on’.
6. Losing Track of Time & Place
People with Alzheimer’s will often lose track of and confuse dates, seasons, and even the passage of time. It could be confusing to comprehend that’s in the future, and not happening right now. They may forget how long they’ve been waiting at a bus stop.
They might also get lost—lose track of where they are and how they got there, with blackout-type gaps in memory. This type of decline is more serious than merely forgetting what day it is and remembering later, or not knowing why you went into a room!
7. Visual and Spatial Challenges
One of the reasons people with Alzheimer’s have their driving licenses taken away is because of the visual and spatial issues this disease can create. Challenges such as newly developed issues with color contrasts, or judging distance—like the difference in a carpet over the floor, or the distance between stairs. These challenges can also include trouble with balance or reading.
8. Losing Things and Not Recalling Where You Have Been
Losing your keys and having to retrace your steps in order to find them is likely age-related. People with Alzheimer’s struggle with the frequency of losing things, putting them in bizarre places, as well as being unable to retrace their steps to find them. It may go so far as to begin to suspect others are stealing, because you simply can’t remember where things are or have been.
9. Drastic Changes in Personality or Mood
If your Dad likes to do things a particular way or is more grumpy than usual, he’s likely just aging. Mood or personality changes in people with Alzheimer’s are generally far more pronounced, like becoming extra fearful, paranoid, suspicious, or anxious. Similarly, they may become over-agitated in simple situations, while out of their “comfort zone” and even at home or with friends.
10. Withdrawal from Society
Withdrawal from social activities or other events that were previously sources of enjoyment is a prime example of this sign of Alzheimer’s. Not being able to hold a conversation, feeling agitated, and not remembering why you are at a certain place may be due to increasing decline in cognitive ability, but they certainly aren’t an impetus to participate if you’re the one experiencing this.
This type of social withdrawal should be of concern and goes beyond being disinterested in social obligations or family.
11. Repeated Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
Number eleven is not so much a sign —more of a reminder—of the risks associated with brain injury. As we discussed in our last article, having any type of TBI raises your risk, but a severe TBI raises your risk of Alzheimer’s up to 4.5 times. Monitoring your cognitive ability and looking out for the above signs becomes even more important for early detection if you’ve had a traumatic brain injury.
If you’re worried, get checked out by a doctor. However, it’s important to know that even if you or a loved one is diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s, all is not lost… There are solutions!
To discover all you need to know about beating and even reversing Alzheimer’s (including a 10-second “water hack” that stops this deadly disease before it starts!)...
Join 12 of the world’s top doctors and neuroscientists in the brand new, 5-part video series Escaping Alzheimer's.