While memory loss can be a normal part of aging, how do you know what's ‘normal' and what might be a sign of something more significant, like Alzheimer's or dementia? Alzheimer's is a disease of the brain that causes a slow decline in memory, thinking and reasoning skills. There are warning signs and symptoms for the disease. Everyone may experience them in a different way, so if you should notice any of them in your loved one, please see a physician.
- Trouble planning or problem solving- this could be as simple as having difficulties following a familiar recipe or keeping track of monthly bills.
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life- memory loss is one of the most common signs- especially forgetting recently learned information, important dates or events and an increasing need to rely on memory aids.
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home or work- even familiar things can become hard- like driving to a location you go to often, completing a standard task at work or forgetting the rules of a favorite game.
- Changes in vision- for some people, vision problems may be an indication of Alzheimer's- it becomes harder to read the words on a page, or there may be troubles judging distance or telling colors apart.
- Confusion with time or place- this can include getting lost easily, forgetting where you are or not remembering how you got there.
- New problems with words in speaking or writing- vocabulary becomes hard- finding the right word or calling things by the wrong name, repeating themselves or not being able to follow a conversation.
- Misplacing things – everyone loses things from time to time but is your loved one also able to retrace their steps to be able to find them again? Are they putting things in odd places or accusing others of taking things? This may occur with greater frequency over time.
- Decreased or poor judgement- is your loved one making mistakes with money, like giving it away when you normally wouldn't? dressing for the wrong weather or not taking care of themselves?
- Withdrawal from social or work activities- someone may become less involved in favorite hobbies, experience a lack of motivation or sleeping more than usual
- Changes in mood and personality- does your loved one get upset more easily? Scared or anxious? Suspicious of people?
If you notice any of these changes- don't ignore them. With early detection, your loved one can: Get the maximum benefit from available treatments and explore treatments that may provide some relief of symptoms to help maintain a level of independence longer.