10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease
Memory often declines during the golden years, so many seniors and their loved ones dismiss cognitive concerns as a normal part of the aging process. Unfortunately, some of these issues stem from Alzheimer's disease, a common condition linked to as many as 80% of dementia cases. Alzheimer's disease occurs when brain cells degenerate, making it difficult for thoughts to travel through cellular connections in the body. Over time, this can cause major issues with memory and behavior, and you may not realize a loved one has Alzheimer's until symptoms become severe.
There isn't a cure for Alzheimer's, but you can help alleviate symptoms if you catch the disease quickly. Several medicines help patients with early-onset Alzheimer's disease, and you can also try music therapy and lifestyle changes geared toward memory preservation. Keep an eye out for these 10 warning signs of Alzheimer's so you can start treatment immediately if your loved one develops dementia.
1. Remembering things that just happened is a struggle
Short-term memory disappears quickly with Alzheimer's, and it doesn't just involve the occasional misplaced set of car keys. You may notice your mom checks the freezer six times in 30 minutes searching for the ice cream she already ate, or your dad may tell you the same story he just shared an hour ago.
2. Regular tasks become difficult
When you ask your mom to make her famous chocolate pecan cookies for the holidays, you may discover she no longer remembers the recipe — even though she's been making it for every celebratory occasion since you were a child. Your dad may suddenly forget how to turn off the oven he's owned for years, or your loved one may bathe multiple times a day because they forget they've already washed their hair.
3. Emotions become unpredictable
Things that once made your loved one happy may send them into a fit of rage, or they may overreact to minor irritations. Your dad may blow up at a slow-moving cashier, or your mom may become furious that you made spaghetti with meatballs — which is usually her favorite meal — for dinner.
4. Time is confusing
It's not concerning if your mom forgets the date occasionally or if your dad thinks it's 7 p.m. when it's actually 4 p.m. However, keep an eye on a loved one who completely forgets the current year or has no clue what month it is on the calendar. You may also notice issues with them understanding situations that aren't happening presently, such as a planned event.
5. Accidents increase
Seniors with Alzheimer's often become clumsy because they forget about the bookshelf that has been in place for years or misjudge the distance between themselves and a table or chair. Your loved one may also express fears about driving because they find it difficult to remember common road rules or determine how much distance to leave behind their vehicle and other cars on the road.
6. Social events are no longer a priority
This isn't necessarily concerning if your loved one is an introvert, but it's alarming if you have a parent who previously enjoyed playing bingo or tennis with friends. Your loved one may struggle to remember the names or faces of friends, or they may forget the rules of activities they once enjoyed with pals, such as how to play a favorite card game. This can result in isolation when a senior realizes something is wrong but isn't quite sure what's happening with their mind.
7. Word retrieval becomes difficult
Alzheimer's disease makes it difficult for seniors to remember or understand common terms. Your mom may ask you to bring her "that fuzzy thing with buttons" instead of requesting her faux fur coat, or a loved one may mix up common words. For example, your dad may request that you put the fridge in the broccoli or place the dryer in the hamper.
8. Judgement declines
Dementia damages the cells needed for logical decision-making. As a result, your once-sharp loved one may fall victim to a phone scam or give her Social Security number to a stranger who knocks on the door. You may also find that your loved one does unsafe things, such as crosses a busy road without checking for moving vehicles first.
9. Vision loss occurs
Vision loss is a common symptom of early-onset Alzheimer's disease, though issues may not show up on a regular eye exam. That's because dementia damages the neurological processes that affect vision rather than the eyes themselves. Pay attention if your loved one mentions that colors seem less vibrant or depth perception seems off.
10. Cognitive issues affect daily life
Everyone forgets things occasionally, but Alzheimer's disease has a significant impact on relationships with family members, friends and a patient's spouse. Seek medical care if your loved one suffers from daily issues stemming from cognitive concern, even if you're unsure whether Alzheimer's is the cause.