While many people dismiss cognitive changes in themselves or a family member as "normal aging," this isn't always the case. "Alzheimer's is not a normal part of aging," Monica Moreno, Senior Director, Care and Support, Alzheimer's Association tells Eat This, Not That! For example, with normal aging sometimes people may forget where they parked their car coming out of the store, "that happens to all of us," she points out. "But the problem is if you get in the car and get lost coming home—that's not normal."
Alzheimer's is a progressive brain disease that causes a slow decline in a person's ability to remember, think, plan and ultimately function, according to the Alzheimer's Association. It impacts more than 6 million Americans, who are living with the disease. And by 2050, that number is projected to skyrocket to nearly 13 million. While there is no cure for Alzheimer's or dementia, identifying it early on is key in treatment. Read on for the Alzheimer's Association 10 Early Signs and Symptoms—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You Had COVID and Didn't Even Know It.
You Are Experiencing Memory Loss That Impacts Daily Life
One of the most key signs of Alzheimer's or dementia, especially in the early stage, is not being able to remember recently learned information, Moreno points out. This can be in the form of asking the same questions over and over, or having to rely on memory aids.
You Are Having Planning or Solving Problems Challenges
If you start to notice changes in your ability to develop and follow a plan or work with numbers—including difficulty following a recipe or keeping track of your bills—it could be a sign of Alzheimer's or dementia.
You Suddenly Have Difficulty Completing Familiar Tasks
Is organizing a grocery list or remembering the rules of your favorite game suddenly challenging? "A person living with Alzheimer's or dementia often finds it hard to complete daily tasks," Moreno explains.
You Are Confused About Times or Places
If you suddenly are losing track of dates, seasons, and passages of time, it could be an early sign of Alzheimer's or dementia.
You Have Trouble Understanding Visual Images and Spatial Relationships
Some people with Alzheimer's or dementia experience vision problems. "This may lead to difficulty with balance or trouble reading," says Moreno.
You Encounter New Problems with Words When Speaking or Writing
If you suddenly notice you are having trouble following or joining a conversation, it could be Alzheimer's or dementia. Moreno explains that this could be as simple as struggling with vocabulary, having difficulty naming a familiar object, or using the wrong name such as, calling a watch a "hand-clock."
You Are Misplacing Things and Struggle to Retrace Steps
If you can't remember where you put things and are unable to retrace your steps to find them again, it could be a sign of Alzheimer's or dementia, per Moreno.
You Notice Decreased or Poor Judgment
Has your decision making or judgement seem to have deteriorated? This could be Alzheimer's or dementia. "They may use poor judgment when dealing with money or pay less attention to grooming," says Moreno.
You Start Withdrawing From Work or Social Activities
If you are living with Alzheimer's or dementia you may start experiencing changes in your ability to hold or follow a conversation. As a result, you might start withdrawing from hobbies or social activities. This could be in the form of giving up on an activity or following a favorite sports team.
Your Mood and Personality May Start Changing
Moreno also says that a person living with Alzheimer's or dementia may experience mood and personality changes. "He or she can become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious," she explains.
What Should You Do If You Have Any of These Symptoms
First, don't stress out yet. "Exhibiting one or more of these 10 warning signs does not mean someone has Alzheimer's," Moreno points out. "In fact, these signs may signal other—even treatable—conditions." Make sure to speak with your doctor so they can help you to determine why you are experiencing cognitive changes so you can better manage it—whatever the diagnosis may be. To learn more about Alzheimer's and to find resources, visit alz.org, or call the Alzheimer's Association 24/7, free Helpline at 800-272-3900. And to protect your health, don't miss these Signs You're Getting One of the "Most Deadly" Cancers.