Alzheimer's disease is a progressive, degenerative brain disorder that causes problems with memory, thinking, and behavior. The earliest symptoms of Alzheimer's usually begin to appear in people in their late 30s or early 40s, but because they are often mistaken for other health conditions, they may not be noticed. As the disease progresses, it becomes increasingly difficult to diagnose and treat accurately.
Difficulty remembering things.
When the disease is in its early stages, you may notice that your loved one seems to have difficulty recalling names or where they put things. As the disease progresses, your loved one may have more difficulty recalling details of conversations or events that occured recently. They may also have trouble remembering their own name on occasion.
Difficulty managing finances.
- Difficulty paying bills.
- Difficulty managing bank accounts.
- Inability to manage financial paperwork, such as signing checks or withdrawing money from ATMs.
If you notice these signs of trouble with your loved one's finances, it may be an indication that your loved one is experiencing memory problems or other cognitive decline. But it's important to remember that not all memory problems are caused by Alzheimer’s disease, so talk to your loved one about getting tested by a doctor if you think something is wrong.
Inability to make decisions and plan.
Losing the ability to make decisions, plan and organize thoughts is one of the most common signs of Alzheimer's disease. You may notice that your loved one:
- Finds it difficult to follow through with decisions.
- Has trouble prioritizing tasks or activities (for example, they might spend a lot of time on something unimportant).
- Has difficulty organizing things or thinking logically about how to do so (for example, they can't seem to keep their clothes sorted by type).
Changes in mood, personality, and behavior.
As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, you may notice changes in your loved one’s mood, personality, and behavior. These emotional and behavioral changes are common symptoms of the disease, and they can occur at any stage of the illness. For example, your loved one may become irritable, anxious, depressed, apathetic, or withdrawn, and they may lose interest in activities they once enjoyed. These changes can be difficult to cope with, but it’s important to remember that they are a natural part of the disease process and can be managed with the right support and care.
Decreased interest in activities and hobbies.
As Alzheimer's progresses, your loved one may lose interest in activities and hobbies they once enjoyed.
They may no longer enjoy the same activities that they previously enjoyed or may not have the energy or stamina for them..
If your loved one is being treated for depression, the loss of interest in activities and hobbies could be a sign of an underlying issue related to their depression, rather than a symptom of Alzheimer’s disease.
Eating less and losing weight.
- Weight loss. This is a common symptom of Alzheimer’s disease and can be caused by a loss of interest in eating or by a decline in the brain’s ability to detect hunger..
- Difficulty swallowing and/or choking on food. Swallowing problems may lead to coughing, gagging, or frequent vomiting.
- Loss of appetite and/or poor hygiene (e.g., not bathing) are common symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease as well. Some people with Alzheimer’s may have difficulty swallowing because the disease affects their ability to coordinate the muscles used for swallowing. This can lead them to avoid eating altogether out of fear of choking. Similarly, people with Alzheimer’s may stop showering because the disease can impair their ability to focus and complete simple tasks like getting dressed, bruising their teeth, and applying shampoo/conditioner. This is also true for those who have difficulty standing for long periods of time, which may make it challenging to complete these tasks. Additionally, the physical act of bending over to perform these tasks may also be difficult for some people with Alzheimer’s.
Confusion about time, place, or people.
Confusion about time, place, or people can be early symptoms of Alzheimer's. If you notice these symptoms in yourself or someone you know, it may be a sign of Alzheimer’s:
- Difficulty with orientation. People with the disease may have difficulty learning new places and memorizing them because the disease affects the brain’s ability to process and store new information.
- Difficulty with place and time. People with the disease may get lost on familiar routes or forget when they are supposed to leave for events because the disease affects their ability to remember and recall information.
- Difficulty with people. People with the disease may forget who their friends and family members are, or they might struggle to recognize them when they see them again after a long period of time apart (for example, if a person was hospitalized for several weeks). This is because the disease affects the brain’s ability to store and retrieve information about people, including their names and faces.
- Memory problems related to language processing. It is normal to forget words occasionally as we age, but it could be an early sign of Alzheimer's if someone consistently has trouble finding the correct word during a conversation because they cannot remember it at that moment in time.This happens because affected individuals often lose their ability to process and use language first..
Difficulty learning new information.
- Difficulty learning new information. As the disease progresses, people with Alzheimer’s may have difficulty learning new information and remembering what they have learned because the disease affects the brain’s ability to process and store new information.
- Trouble following instructions. When someone is giving directions or trying to teach something to a person with Alzheimer’s, it's important that they explain things step by step in a clear and concise manner. However, if the instructions are given too quickly or are too complex, it can be difficult for someone with Alzheimer’s to understand or follow them.
- Trouble following conversations is also a common symptom of Alzheimer’s. People with the disease may have difficulty following conversations, especially if there are multiple people involved in the discussion, because the disease affects their ability to process and understand spoken language. Additionally, they may have poor judgment about when it is appropriate to make comments in a group setting or in private conversations because the disease can also impact their ability to interpret social cues and understand the thoughts and feelings of others.
- Memory loss affecting social activities. People with the disease may forget their friends' names or their relationships with others, and they may make inappropriate comments about past experiences or events that never happened because the disease affects their ability to recall information about people and events. Additionally, people with Alzheimer’s may mix up words like “mother” or “father” because the disease affects their ability to use language correctly.
Problems with driving, giving up driving altogether, or having a serious accident while driving.
If you are having problems driving, it is important to see a doctor. This may be a sign of Alzheimer’s disease or another health condition that needs treatment. Alzheimer’s is a progressive brain disorder that affects memory, thinking, and behavior, and can impair a person’s ability to operate a motor vehicle safely. If left untreated, Alzheimer’s can worsen over time and increase the risk of accidents and injuries while driving.
If you have been in an accident while driving, tell the police officer investigating your accident if you are taking any medications or supplements that might affect how well you can drive. This is because some medications and supplements can cause drowsiness, dizziness, or other side effects that can impair driving ability. Your doctor or pharmacist should also provide this information when filing out the accident report, and the same applies to any medications taken by other people in the car.
Driving is not a right; it's a privilege given by state and local governments to those who are able to safely drive on public roads and highways without posing an undue risk to themselves or others around them. Because of this, many states have laws against driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, which can impair driving ability and increase the risk of accidents or injuries. These laws help keep everyone safer when they're behind their steering wheel, and it is important to follow them to ensure the safety of yourself and others on the road.
It is important to see the doctor if you notice any of these changes in yourself or a loved one.
If you notice changes in memory, thinking or behavior that are impacting daily life in yourself or someone you care about, it is important to see a doctor as soon as possible. Early detection of Alzheimer’s can help slow down the progression of the disease and improve the quality of life for people with the condition.