Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, affecting more than 5 million people in the United States. In fact, Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death. An evaluation by a physician is a necessary first step in determining the underlying cause for memory difficulties.
Warning signs may include:
Difficulty performing familiar tasks. For example, this could include preparing a meal and not only forgetting to serve it, but also forgetting it was made.
Language problems. Forgetting simple words or substituting inappropriate ones; making sentences incomprehensible is cause for concern.
Recent memory loss that affects job skills, such as forgetting names, phone numbers and assignments, and not remembering them later.
Disorientation to time and place. Becoming lost in familiar surroundings and not knowing how to get home is a common problem during the course of Alzheimer’s disease.
Poor judgment, which may be shown outwardly by dressing inappropriately or completely forgetting about the task at hand.
Problems with abstract thinking. Not only having difficulty balancing a checkbook, but forgetting what the numbers are and what needs to be done with them is a telling symptom.
Misplacing things, including putting things in inappropriate places such as keys in the refrigerator or a hairbrush in the silverware drawer.
Changes in mood or behavior. Caregivers of those with Alzheimer’s disease may report rapid mood swings for no apparent reason.
Changes in personality. Often these symptoms can be subtle at first, but may become more dramatic as the disease progresses. They may include confusion, suspicion, and/or fearfulness.
Loss of initiative. Many become passive and require encouragement to get involved.
The list above cites 10 examples of Alzheimer’s disease warning signs that should be mentioned to a physician, and may require further evaluation by him or her. If concerned about memory loss in oneself or a loved one, it is very important to seek the advice and evaluation of a physician. There are tests a physician can perform that can help to determine if symptoms are related to normal age-related memory loss or something more serious.
Early detection of Alzheimer’s disease is very important. The current medications used for treatment of Alzheimer’s, which help to stall the progression of the disease, have been found to be more effective the earlier in the disease process they are begun.