What Are the Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s disease is the primary cause of dementia. It kills brain cells and damages the chemical communication between remaining cells, which leads to decreased cognitive function and a wide range of dementia symptoms. Alzheimer’s causes a progressive dementia, meaning that, although the rate of mental deterioration can be slowed, there is no cure and ultimately no way to keep symptoms from worsening.
Many of the clearest warning signs of Alzheimer’s are related to the memory loss that results from the degeneration of brain cells, but there are other cognitive problems associated with Alzheimer’s that can be red flags, as well.
Early Alzheimer’s Symptoms
Early detection is essential in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, so it’s very important to know what to look for. You may notice symptoms in yourself that could indicate the beginnings of Alzheimer’s, or you might notice them in someone else’s behavior. In the early stages of the disease, common Alzheimer’s signs someone might exhibit include:
Alzheimer’s statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S.
- Forgetting what should be routine and familiar information, such as names of people and places regularly encountered
- Forgetting to complete everyday tasks (e.g., forgetting to make tea even though it is a daily habit) or forgetting that everyday tasks are in progress (e.g., forgetting that the teapot is on the stove)
- Asking the same question repeatedly and forgetting that it has already been answered, or forgetting that they already asked
- Becoming disoriented when away from home, possibly being unsure how to get back there
- Missing appointments and never realizing they missed them
- Putting household objects in unusual places and then being unable to find them again
- Difficulty absorbing and applying new information
- Difficulty making decisions, planning, organizing, problem-solving
- Difficulty understanding basic financial documents such as credit card statements or bank balances, when there was no difficulty in the past
Symptoms of Later-Stage Alzheimer’s Disease
Eventually, a person’s symptoms inevitably progress to those of later Alzheimer’s stages. Someone with advanced Alzheimer’s will likely be:
- Unable to recognize familiar people, including family members
- Unclear about their age or what stage of their life they are in
- Angry, irritable, increasingly aggressive
- Prone to trying to harm themselves or others
- Unable to independently perform such daily activities as eating, bathing, dressing
Although the worsening of Alzheimer’s symptoms cannot be prevented, and there is no way to indefinitely stall the deterioration of brain cells and function, medication can significantly slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease by increasing the chemical communication between healthy remaining brain cells.