Warning Signs

  • Forgetfulness about recent events and difficulty performing familiar tasks are two of the most common early signs of Alzheimer’s.
  • Also watch for behavioral changes such as withdrawal from interaction, as well as mood swings and personality changes.
  • Warning signs don’t necessarily mean your loved one has Alzheimer’s, but they do mean you should schedule an examination.

Next Step

Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s can be a complicated process. Learn what to expect.

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Every case of Alzheimer’s is different, but people in the early stages of the disease do tend to exhibit common warning signs. Some of these symptoms overlap with ordinary mental changes that occur as we age. With Alzheimer’s, symptoms typically increase gradually, becoming more and more persistent.

Memory loss about recent events or recently learned information is one of the most common warning signs. Watch for forgetfulness about recent events, names, and the location of objects around the house, as well as occasional confusion about time and place. Difficulty with math-related tasks such as balancing a checkbook is another warning sign.

Your loved one may also begin having trouble with routine actions such as getting dressed or brushing his or her teeth. Finding the appropriate word to complete a thought may become a struggle, and he or she may sometimes “lose the plot” of a conversation or have trouble following detailed directions.

You should also note changes in mood and personality, including increased suspicion, withdrawal, and a lack of interest in usual activities with friends and family. Questionable judgment about normally straightforward matters, disorientation about time or place, and problems with abstract thinking are other warning signs.

If you spot some of these signals, don’t assume that your loved one has Alzheimer’s. They may indicate another, possibly reversible condition, or be caused by normal aging-related changes. In any case, it’s important to promptly schedule an appointment with your loved one’s doctor.

Next Step: Learn how Alzheimer’s is diagnosed.

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Experts at the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America have the answers to your toughest Alzheimer’s and dementia questions.

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