Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by memory loss that affects daily life and normal functioning. But how do you know if a loved one has Alzheimer’s or is just showing normal signs of aging? Common symptoms of early Alzheimer’s disease include:
Memory loss. Some memory loss is a normal part of the aging process, but for a person with Alzheimer’s, memory loss can reach a point where day to day life becomes difficult. Many people find remembering names difficult; not remembering you ever met the person at all is more troublesome. It is normal to walk into a room and forget what you were looking for; it is less normal to forget how to get to a good friend’s house. The memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s can make it difficult to hold a conversation, and a person may need to be reminded of the same information several times. They may also need to rely heavily on memory aids for everyday tasks, such as taking medications.
Difficulty with normal routine. A person with Alzheimer’s might find it difficult to do things they normally used to do easily – such as balancing a checkbook, or keeping track of appointments. They might have difficulty planning and executing events, so something like hosting a holiday gathering can seem impossible and overwhelming.
Confusing location and time. It can be perfectly normal to forget what day it is, but a person with Alzheimer’s might have trouble remembering what season it is, or who is currently president. They may get lost easily and even forget how they got somewhere. For example, if a friend drives them to the doctor and waits outside, they may not remember how they got there at all and end up taking the bus home instead.
Loss of interest in normal activities. People may withdraw from normal social interactions, or not feel like doing things they normally enjoy. Loss of interest in hobbies, friends, and family should always be a red flag. Increased irritability and moodiness, even with close friends and family, may also occur.
Lessened ability to keep track of possessions. Everyone puts things down sometimes and forgets where they are, but with Alzheimer’s this tends to happen more often. People with Alzheimer’s might leave things in strange places, or forget what an object is for. It is perfectly normal to set your glasses down somewhere and not remember where you left them; it is less normal to find your glasses in the silverware drawer and then not remember what their purpose is.
Physical signs. Especially in later stages of Alzheimer’s, a person may begin to slur their speech a bit, making it difficult to understand them. They might find the physical act of writing more difficult than usual, or have trouble judging distances and need to climb stairs more cautiously.
While there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s, early intervention is very helpful in reducing symptoms and helping your loved one live life to the fullest. Encourage them to speak to their doctor if they are experiencing any of these signs and symptoms.