Here are some common warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease:
If you or someone you love is experiencing one or more of the following symptoms, talk to a doctor. The medications used to manage Alzheimer’s disease work best in the early stages of the disease, making an early diagnosis significant.
Trouble remembering things. At first, only short-term memory may be affected. The individual may forget an appointment or the name of a new acquaintance. She may also forget where she left things, or she may leave things in odd places (for example, putting her shoes in the microwave). Eventually, long-term memory also is impaired, and the individual may not recognize family members.
Mood or personality changes. The person may suddenly become angry or sad for no apparent reason. Or someone who was social and outgoing may become withdrawn. The person may also become stubborn or distrustful. Depression also often accompanies Alzheimer’s disease, bringing such symptoms as loss of interest in a favorite hobby or activity, a change in appetite, insomnia or sleeping too much, lack of energy, and hopelessness.
Trouble completing ordinary tasks. Simple tasks that once caused no difficulty may become much more challenging. For example, a person may forget how to use the oven, lock the door, or get dressed.
Difficulty expressing thoughts. It’s common for people with Alzheimer’s disease to have trouble with language. The individual may try describing an object rather than using its name — for example, referring to the telephone as “the ringer” or “that thing I call people with.” Reading or writing may also be impaired.
Impaired judgment. The individual might have trouble making decisions, solving problems, or planning. For example, he may no longer be able to balance a checkbook or pay bills.
Disorientation. We all know what it’s like to be driving and momentarily forget where we’re going. But those with Alzheimer’s disease may get lost in their own neighborhood. They may also lose track of dates and the time.
Unusual behavior. The individual may wander, become agitated, hide things, wear too few or too many clothes, become overly suspicious, engage in unsafe behaviors, or use foul language.
Prepared by the editors of Harvard Health Publications in collaboration with John H. Growdon, M.D., Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School, and Director, Memory and Movement Disorders Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital.