Signs someone is getting Alzheimer's can be easy to spot—once you know what you're looking for. "Dementia is not a single disease but a term that describes a collection of changes to memory, thinking, and personality that interfere with a person's ability to function," says Scott Kaiser, MD, a board certified geriatrician and Director of Geriatric Cognitive Health for the Pacific Neuroscience Institute at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, CA. "This disorder can be caused by a variety of brain diseases or conditions—Alzheimer's disease being the most common form of dementia, affecting over 5 million Americans." Read on for 7 key symptoms to watch for in yourself or someone else—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Symptoms That Might Secretly Be Due to COVID.
"One of the first possible signs of an issue related to cognitive decline, dementia, or Alzheimer's disease impact our ability to handle our finances," says Dr. Krystal L.Culler. "Not only do individuals struggle with decision-making around our finances but individuals become more vulnerable to financial scams (mailings, telemarketers, fraud, lotteries, and more) as individuals lack the ability to recognize the threats and forget to pay bills."
Forgetfulness of Learned Skills
"They lose skill sets, forgetting how to use remote controls, the computer or tools," says Dr. Thomas C. Hammond, neurologist with Baptist Health's Marcus Neuroscience Institute. "They leave tasks and projects incomplete and may forget recipes they knew well."
Forgetting Recently Learned Information
"Forgetting important dates and events. Asking the same question repeatedly," says Soma Mandal, MD. "Having the need to rely on memory aides to remind them and having them rely on family members to handle things they used to handle on their own."
Issues Speaking or Writing
"Someone may stop abruptly in the middle of a conversation with no idea how to continue," says Chris Airey, MD, Medical Director at Optimale. "Other times they may repeat themselves or have problems remembering the name of objects they are familiar with. They may also struggle to join a conversation or follow one."
Withdrawal From Enjoyed Activities
"In the early stages, you may begin to notice that the person isn't as active or pursuing their hobbies and interests as they normally would. They may drop out of a beloved card club or take a pass at the opportunity to go on a trip," says Juliet Holt Klinger, Gerontologist and Senior Director of Dementia Care for Brookdale Senior Living. "As cognitive issues become more of a challenge for the person, they may withdraw themselves from activities that could place them in a position to have their deficits highlighted, especially in front of friends or family, for fear of being judged."
Decline in Visio-Spatial and Orientation Skills
"They can experience problems judging distance or seeing objects in three dimensions; navigating stairs or parking the car become much harder," says Dr. Waqas Ahmad Buttar, family physician. "As well as becoming confused or losing track of the day or date."
Changes in Personality, Mood, Behavior
Scott Kaiser, MD, lists potential examples as: "unexplained changes to personality, depression and/or anxiety and mood swings, new and inappropriate behaviors, significant irritability and/or agitation, hallucinations, paranoia, and delusions."
Where to Go From Here?
"It is never too early to start a conversation about our personal memory health or brain care with your healthcare provider even if we are not experiencing symptoms. If at any point in time we have memory concerns or are wanting more information, we can engage in a conversation with our healthcare providers," says Dr. Culler. "We don't need to link the care of our brains to a decline in our abilities to start a conversation with our providers, who are a source of support for our brain health and wellness. The health of our brains is 90%, lifestyle and 10% genetics. There are things we all can do, even with dementia and Alzheimer's disease, to optimize our memory health and brain care at any age." Contact a medical professional to discuss the issue if you know someone at risk, and to make sure you live a long and healthy life, don't miss these Secret Signs You're Getting One of the "Most Deadly" Cancers.