November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. Some 5.8 million Americans suffer from this form of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder, but 80% of respondents to a recent survey believed that dementia is a normal part of aging. That makes it easy to overlook the early signs. How can you tell if a loved one is showing early signs of Alzheimer’s?
Here are seven things to look for:
- Memory loss that affects daily life. You might forget about a scheduled Zoom meeting or search your memory for the name of someone you don’t know very well. An Alzheimer patient, however, will forget conversations or events and not remember them later.
- Loss of problem-solving ability. While anyone might make a mistake in a mathematical calculation, people with Alzheimer’s may have trouble following recipes or forget how to do basic tasks they’ve been able to do in the past. They may forget how to play games they used to enjoy or get confused by multi-step instructions.
- Confusion about times and places. People who are developing Alzheimer’s may forget their way home or get lost in familiar placers. They may feel confused about the time of day and what’s appropriate for the time. They may choose clothing that is inappropriate for the weather.
- Limitations with language. Someone with Alzheimer’s may lose track in the middle of a conversation, forget words, or have trouble putting sentences together. They may have trouble reading. It’s normal to have to search for words occasionally, but frequent difficulty with language can be a sign of dementia.
- Misplacing things. A lot of us absentmindedly set down items and have to retrace our steps to find them. A person with Alzheimer’s may be unable to retrace their steps, or may accuse others of stealing things they have put in an unusual place. Putting objects in surprising places is one of the early signs of Alzheimer’s.
- Poor judgement. Alzheimer’s disease can cause people to have trouble managing money, to stop keeping themselves clean, or to take unwise risks. They may leave the stove turned on or behave unwisely in social situations.
- Personality changes. Some people show changes in personality when they have Alzheimer’s. They may withdraw from others when they used to be friendly, or become impulsive or irritable. Some Alzheimer’s patients become aggressive or begin wandering.
If you see these changes in a loved one — or in yourself — it’s time to talk with a doctor. Talk with your loved one about visiting a physician together. See your family doctor or internal medicine doctor and ask about dementia.