How To Recognize Alzheimer's Early: 9 Typical Signs And Symptoms

March 30, 2018

Alzheimer's disease is not always easy to recognize in its early stages. Some may even mistake the changes in thinking and behavior associated with Alzheimer's for normal signs of aging. But dementia doesn't affect everyone who is getting older.

Some people still have a sharp mind when they are in their eighties, nineties, and beyond. But some are less fortunate and start to show signs of dementia in their sixties or even earlier.

Below we list several signs of Alzheimer's that appear at the onset of the disease:

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1. Memory problems

Memory problems are the main and best-known symptom of Alzheimer's disease. Someone with mild Alzheimer's usually has trouble remembering things he or she did during the day or the week, important dates and events, and people he or she has met recently. As the disease progresses, it becomes harder and harder to recall and memorize things.

It's common for older people to forget things, such as names, dates, and events, and then remember them later. It may take them longer to retrieve this information from their memory, but the information isn't lost.

2. Trouble finding the right words to express one's thoughts.

It's another sign of the failing memory often seen in people with Alzheimer's. In the beginning, it becomes hard to recall difficult words that a person doesn't use often. Then, it gets increasingly difficult to recall even simple words used every day, such as names of household objects.

Again, it's common for older people without dementia to forget certain words, but they usually come to mind later.

3. Difficulty completing routine tasks.

For someone in the early stage of Alzheimer's, it gets difficult to perform usual day-to-day tasks, such as following a recipe they have used countless times or writing a shopping list.

Older folks who aren't affected by Alzheimer's may occasionally need help with everyday tasks (say, asking their grandchild to teach them how to use a smartphone), but they to do things such as cooking or making lists without anybody's help.

4. Getting lost in familiar places.

People with early Alzheimer's may have trouble walking or driving to a familiar place, as they can't recall how to get there.

On the other hand, getting lost in a place one hasn't been to for ages or having trouble finding a way there can happen to anyone, including young people.

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5. Difficulty managing finances.

For a person with early Alzheimer’s, it gets difficult to keep track of their spending, do their taxes, and manage other financial issues.

Forgetting to pay a bill only once most certainly isn't a sign of the disease.

6. Losing the thread.

Inability to follow a complex plotline, difficulty following a conversation, or forgetting what one was going to say mid-sentence may all be early signs of Alzheimer's.

If it happens to you only occasionally, such as when a conversation is boring and your mind starts to wander, there's probably no reason to worry.

7. Forgetting where you put your stuff.

It's common for people with early dementia to put things in odd places, and then having difficulty finding them.

If you absent-mindedly put coffee in the fridge and not in the cabinet, you shouldn't worry. You only have to be concerned if you misplace things regularly.

8. Changes in mood and personality.

Someone with Alzheimer's may become anxious, depressed, paranoid, or more aggressive, even when there are no obvious triggers for such changes.

In older people without Alzheimer's, mood changes are common, but their core personality traits are unlikely to change.

9. Apathy

People with Alzheimer's tend to become socially withdrawn and give up their hobbies and other activities, as it becomes harder for them to make sense of the world and communication between people.

Older people, in general, may withdraw from some activities for a different reason - they simply have less energy.

If you notice these signs in yourself or in someone you love, please do see a doctor. With the right treatment, the progression of Alzheimer's can be slowed down, at least to some extent.

Source: Alzheimer's Association, Harvard Health, Reader's Digest, National Institute of Aging

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This article is solely for informational purposes. Do not self-diagnose or self-medicate, and in all cases consult a certified healthcare professional before using any information presented in the article. The editorial board does not guarantee any results and does not bear any responsibility for harm that may result from using the information provided in the article.